UPDATED: 6:00 p.m. ET, March 14, 2021 —
While death is inevitably a part of life, that truth doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to those who have died. Keep reading to learn more about the notable Black lives that we’ve lost in 2021.
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, a legendary boxing middleweight champion, dies March 13 at the age of 66. Hagler’s wife said in a Facebook post that he “passed away unexpectedly at his home” in New Hampshire but did not disclose the cause of his death. Scroll down to find more information about Hagler’s life and impressive career in the ring.
Vernon Jordan, a pioneering civil rights leader in the fields of law, business and Washington politics, died March 1, according to reports. Jordan was 85 years old. His cause of death was not immediately reported.
Irv Cross, a groundbreaking sports broadcaster and former NFL player and Pro Bowler died at 81, CBS Sports announced Sunday night. He made history as the first Black man to work as a full-sports analyst on national television. Cross, who worked at CBS Sports for 23 years worked in several roles at the network.
“All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross’ passing,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “Irv was a pioneer who made significant contributions to the storied history and tradition of CBS Sports and, along with Phyllis George and Brent Musburger, set the standard for NFL pregame shows with THE NFL TODAY. He was a true gentleman and a trailblazer in the sports television industry and will be remembered for his accomplishments and the paths he paved for those who followed.”
Shelia Washington, founder of the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center, died of a heart attack on Jan. 29. She was 61-years-old. Washington waged an effort to help exonerate the Scottsboro Boys, a group of young Black men unjustly convicted of crimes in the 1930s, The Washington Post reports.
Antoine Hodge, a respected and celebrated opera singer, died from COVID-19 on Feb. 22. He was 38 years old. Hodge recently appeared in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019 production of “Porgy and Bess.”
Scroll down to read more about Hodge’s life and other notable Black people who have died this year.
Douglas Turner Ward, an actor and the co-founder of the Negro Ensemble Company, died Feb. 20 at the age of 90. His cause of death was not immediately announced. Ward, who appeared in Broadway plays such as, “A Raisin in the Sun,” was a champion for Black playwrights at a time when support for them for nearly nonexistent. He said he was proud of the success his company has had over the years.
“I’m proud of the personnel that we trained and the fact that they’re still active in every field of theater, TV and film,” Ward told the Roundabout Theater Company in an interview published nearly a year ago. “Not just the writers, but the actors, the designers, the stage managers, the backstage personnel, the directors. Everybody. To this day they are all over American show business working. And some creating their own theaters.”
Mary Wilson, one of the founding members of The Supremes, the legendary trio who went on to make music history with the legendary Motown Records, has died at the age of 76. Her death on Feb. 8 was unexpected, according to her publicist. There was no cause of death immediately announced. Scroll down to learn more about her life and the lasting impact she left on popular music.
Former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks died on Feb. 5 after a five-year battle with prostate and other cancers. Spinks, 67, was most famously known for one of the greatest sports upsets of all time during a 1978 boxing match with Muhammad Ali, where he beat the champ, securing the heavyweight title. Several months later Ali reclaimed the title. Although they were fierce competitors the two stayed close well into their later years.
The world is mourning an icon after it was revealed that Oscar-nominated actress Cicely Tyson died on Jan. 28. Her cause of death is unknown. At age 96, Tyson was one of the most acclaimed actresses in Hollywood, paving the way for Black thespians while representing the last of the film industry’s golden age. But her road to success was tested at several points in career where she was faced with racism, sexism, misogynoir. Throughout her career which spanned over 60 years in television, film and theatre, Cicely was nominated for 52 awards, with 49 wins.
Her death comes just two days after the release of her memoir “Just as I am” in which Tyson reflected on her contributions and her personal trials and tribulations.
Major League Baseball hero Hank Aaron died on Jan. 22 at the age of 86 from an unknown cause, according to his daughter who confirmed the tragic news. Aaron was a prolific athlete who rose through poverty as a child of the Great Depression to become hailed as baseball’s “home run king.” In 1974 he made history shattering the record held by Babe Ruth of 714 home runs in a career.
Fans and supporters of Aaron’s legacy shared their grief on social media, mourning the loss of another great sports legend.
Meredith C. Anding Jr., a civil rights icon who as a member of the “Tougaloo Nine” was arrested for entering a “whites only” library in 1961, died Jan. 8. Anding was 79 years old. The cause of death was complications from leukemia. Scroll down to read more about his life.
Scroll down to see some of the other notable Black people who have died in 2021.
Rest In Power: Notable Black Folks Who We’ve Lost In 2021 was originally published on newsone.com
1. “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, boxing legend, 66Source:Getty
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, the legendary boxing middleweight champion, died March 13at the age of 66. Hagler’s wife said in a Facebook post that he “passed away unexpectedly at his home” in New Hampshire. During his career that spanned 14 impressive years, Hagler lost just two times and scored 53 knockouts while amassing 62 wins.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1954 before going on to grow up in Brockton, Massachusetts, Hagler ultimately became a sports legend in nearby Boston.
Hagler defended his title 12 times before he famously lost to Sugar Ray Leonard in a split decision in 1987 during what turned out to be his final boxing match.
2. Robert Ashby, military hero, 95Source:Getty
Robert Ashby, one of the three surviving members of the Tuskegee Air Force died on March 5 at the age of 95, the Associated Press reports.
3. Obe Noir, rapper-activist, 31Source:Instagram
Noir, a respected Houston rapper and activist was gunned down on March 8. He was 31. Police are actively investigating his death.
4. Marshall Latimore, journalist, 36Source:The Atlanta Voice
Latimore, a Birmingham, Alabama, native and award-winning journalist, died on March 10. Latimore worked as editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Voice. He was 36.
5. Lawrence Otis Graham, author, 59Source:Getty
Graham, a New York Times bestseller, died on Feb. 19. He was 59 years old. His works published in the 1990’s examined the intricacies and tensions surrounding Black people who achieved financial mobility in America.
6. Jahmil French, actor, 28Source:Getty
Fans mourned the 28-year-old “Degrassi” actor’s death on March 2.
“It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of a dear friend and client Jahmil French,” his agent Gabrielle Kachman said in a statement. “He will be remembered by many for his passion for the arts, his commitment to his craft, and his vibrant personality. I ask that you keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.”
7. Bunny Wailer, reggae icon, 73Source:Getty
Wailer, a reggae icon and musical giant died on Tuesday at the age of 73.
8. Irv Cross, legendary broadcaster, 81Source:Getty
Cross, a former NFL defensive back who made history in the broadcasting industry died on Feb. 28. He was 81. He made history as the first Black man to work as a full-time sports analyst on national television. His death announcement was made by his former team the Philadelphia Eagles. Cross was drafted to the Eagles in the 1961 NFL draft where he spent six years before he was traded to the Rams. During his time in the NFL, he made two Pro Bowls before retiring in 1969.
9. Shelia Washington, founder, Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center, 61Source:William H. Hampton
Washington died from a heart attack in January at the age of 61. For over a decade she waged a campaign to exonerate the Scottsboro Boys, a group of Black teens who were falsely accused of raping white women aboard a train in Alabama in the 1930s.
10. Antoine Hodge, opera singer, 38Source:GoFundMe
Hodge, 38, died from COVID-19 complications after battling the disease for weeks.
11. Douglas Turner Ward, actor, Negro Ensemble Company co-founder, 90Source:WENN
Douglas Turner Ward, an actor and champion of Black playwrights who was the co-founder of the Negro Ensemble Company, died Feb. 20 at the age of 90.
Ward wrote a column in the New York Times that ultimately led to the company’s start.
“If any hope, outside of chance individual fortune, exists for Negro playwrights as a group — or, for that matter, Negro actors and other theater craftsman — the most immediate, pressing, practical, absolutely minimally essential active first step is the development of a permanent Negro repertory company of at least Off-Broadway size and dimension,” Ward wrote at the time. “Not in the future … but now!”
That prompted the Ford Foundation to grant him the funds needed to establish the Negro Ensemble Company, which went on to produce stage classics such as “A Soldiers Play,” starring Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson, and “The River Niger.”
12. Prince Markie Dee, rapper, 52Source:Getty
Prince Markie Dee, who rose to fame as a founding member of the pioneering 1980s rap group, Fat Boys, died Feb. 17 at the age of 52. He reportedly died from congestive heart failure. Hip Hop Wired reports:
“Prince Markie Dee appeared in the ensemble cast of Krush Groove, which was loosely based on the life of Russell Simmons, and with the Fat Boys also starred in their own movie called Disorderlies in 1987. The Fat Boy’s self-titled debut was released in 1984 and produced by Kurtis Blow. Their 1987 album Crushin’ went platinum.
“After the Fat Boys’ run, Markie found success as solo acts, with ‘Typical Reasons (Swing My Way)’ from his 1992 solo album Free. The song became a no. 1 single and he eventually settled in as a producer, as Soul Convention with Cory Rooney, as well as a radio host. Recently he had been hosting a show on SiriusXM’s LL Cool J-founded Rock The Bells.”
13. Vincent Jackson, former NFL star, 38Source:Getty
Vincent Jackson, a former wide receiver for several NFL teams, was found dead in a hotel room in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 15. He was just 38 years old. The circumstances surrounding his death were not immediately reported and condolences poured in from around the professional football community for someone who was universally regarded as a great player and even better person. His family had reported him missing on Feb. 10.
14. Danny Ray, MC who put cape on James Brown, 85Source:Getty
Danny Ray, who worked with James Brown for more than four decades in various roles, including as the man who put the singer’s cape on him while he was performing on stage, died. on Feb. 2 at the age of 85, the Washington Post reported. No cause of death was listed.
In addition to handling Brown’s cape, Ray was effectively his personal fashion stylist, valet and overall personal assistant. Ray would also faithfully introduce Brown before his performances.
15. Frederick K.C. Price, evangelist, 89
Frederick K.C. Price, a televangelist Christian preacher who had one of the first predominately Black megachurches in the U.S., has died following complications from COVID-19. He died on Feb. 12 at the age of 89.
The New York Times reported:
“Mr. Price founded the Crenshaw Christian Center in Inglewood, Calif., in 1973, according to the church’s website. Its membership has grown to over 28,000 from 300 at its inception.
“In addition to services in the FaithDome, a 10,000-seat building, Mr. Price began televising his services locally in 1978 through Ever Increasing Faith Ministries, the missionary outreach arm of the church, after he had ‘received instruction from God,’ according to the church’s website. Mr. Price had begun broadcasting his services on the radio years earlier, and expanded the televised broadcasts ‘in an effort to reach Black America.'”
16. Terez Paylor, sports journalist, 37Source:facebook
Yahoo Sports journalist Terez Paylor died unexpectedly on Feb. 9 at the age of 37.
17. Mary Wilson, co-founder of The Supremes, 76Source:Getty
Mary Wilson, one of the founding members of The Supremes, has died at the age of 76. Her death on Feb. 8 was unexpected. There was no cause of death immediately announced.
A press release announcing Wilson’s death remembered her as someone who “changed the face of pop music to become a trendsetter who broke down social, racial, and gender barriers, which all started with the wild success of their first number one song. Formed in Detroit as The Primettes in 1959, The Supremes were Motown’s most successful act of the 1960s, scoring 12 No. 1 singles. They also continue to reign as America’s most successful vocal group to date. Their influence not only carries on in contemporary R&B, soul and pop, they also helped pave the way for mainstream success by Black artists across all genres.”
18. Karen Lewis, former Chicago Teachers Union president, 67Source:Getty
Former Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis died on Feb. 7 from brain cancer, NBC News Chicago reports. Lewis was known for her fiery activism, spearheading a 2011 effort which in 2012 resulted in the first teachers strike in 25 years. Lewis, a former chemistry teacher will be remembered as a champion for educators in Chicago and helped mobilize the group to fight for equity. She battled a series of health issues before her death. In 2017 she suffered a stroke and in 2018, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
19. Leon Spinks, former heavyweight champion, 67Source:Getty
Spinks died on Feb. 5 after battling prostate and other cancers.
20. Dianne Durham, gymnast, 52Source:Getty
Dianne Durham, a trailblazer in the gymnast world died on Feb. 4 at the age of 52 after suffering from a short, unknown illness according to NBC News. Durham was the first Black person to win a USA Gymnastics national championship. Her vision and fortitude paved the way for other Black women gymnasts like Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles.
21. John Chaney, college basketball coaching legend, 89Source:Getty
22. Cicely Tyson, actresss, 96Source:Getty
Legendary actress Cicely Tyson died on Thursday at the age of 96. Her death was confirmed by Larry Thompson, her manager of 40 years, who released a statement to Variety. Tyson passed just two days after the release of her memoir, “Just as I am.” She paved the way for Black actors in Hollywood and her presence on the screen and in the world will be sorely missed.
23. Hank Aaron, MLB icon, 86Source:Getty
Aaron, a baseball legend who made history in 1974 when he shattered Babe Ruth’s home run record, died on Jan. 22 at the age of 86. Fans and supporters shared their grief on social media, honoring the MLB icon with tributes and thanks for what he gave the game of baseball, as well as his civil rights and philanthropic efforts.
24. Duranice Pace, gospel singer, 62Source:Getty
Pace, 62, was the eldest sister of “The Annointed Pace Sisters,” which consisted of Duranice, June Pace–Martin, Melonda Pace, Dejuaii Pace, Leslie Pace, Latrice Pace and Lydia Pace. The Atlanta-based group helped catapult the city into the mainstream as a musical landmark in the south. The Pace Sisters recorded a total of seven albums together including chart toppers, “U-Know,” “Access Granted,” “My Purpose” and “Return.” On social media her fans and supporters continue to reflect on the musical legacy she left behind.
Famed and beloved gospel singer Duranice Pace died on Jan. 14, according to family members who confirmed via social media. She was 62-years-old. Pace was the eldest sister of “The Annointed Pace Sisters,” which consisted of Duranice, June Pace–Martin, Melonda Pace, Dejuaii Pace, Leslie Pace, Latrice Pace and Lydia Pace. The Atlanta-based group helped catapult the city into the mainstream as a musical landmark in the south.
Details surrounding her death are scarce. Those close to Pace confirmed that she battling an unknown illness and was hospitalized last week. On social media Pace’s supporters asked for prayers and well-wishes in hopes that she would recover.
25. Tim Lester, NFL star, 52Source:Getty
Tim Lester, a former NFL star who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams, and Dallas Cowboys, died on Jan. 12 from COVID-19 complications. He was 52. After his almost decade long career in the NFL, he dedicated his life to coaching and philanthropy efforts in Milton, Georgia.
Tim Lester, a former NFL star who was known on the gridiron as “The Bus Driver,” died on Jan. 12 from COVID-19 complications. He was 52. Lester played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams, and Dallas Cowboys during his almost decade long career in the game. Lester’s former teammate all-star Emmitt Smith memorialized him on Twitter after the tragic news broke.
“It’s a sad day to hear of Tim Lester’s passing…My thoughts go out to his family, Steelers Nation and his teammates that he so steadily blocked and protected. RIP to “The Bus Driver,” Smith wrote.
26. Bryan Monroe, former NABJ president, 55Source:Getty
Monroe died from a heart attack at age 55 on Jan. 13. He served as president of the NABJ from 2005-2007. Monroe was a chair at Verizon and taught in the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia. During his career in the news Monroe also worked as an editor for CNN’s political site and accrued acclaim for his leadership at the Biloxi Sun Herald during Hurricane Katrina. Following, the outlet won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage.
Former NABJ President Bryan Monroe died of a heart attack at his home in Bethesda, Maryland, on Jan. 13, according to a statement. Monroe served as president of the illustrious organization which provides advocacy and training for Black journalists, from 2005-2007. He was a chair member at Verizon and taught at the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia.
27. Meredith C. Anding Jr., civil rights icon, 79
Meredith C. Anding Jr., a civil rights icon who as a member of the “Tougaloo Nine” was arrested for entering a “whites only” library in 1961, has died. Anding was 79 years old. The cause of death was complications from leukemia.
The Associated Press reported: “The Tougaloo Nine were students at the historically Black institution Tougaloo College who staged a peaceful sit-in at Jackson’s white-only library on March, 27, 1961. It is widely considered the first student protest of segregation at a public institution in Mississippi.”
28. Eric Jerome Dickey, best-selling author, 59Source:Getty
Dickey left a career as a software engineer to pursue his art and worked diligently at his craft for years writing poetry, comedy, and scripts until he published his first novel “Sister, Sister” in 1996.” Over the course of his career Dickey published 29 novels and was honored as a New York Times best-selling author. He also earned a series of NAACP Image Awards, the 2006 Best Contemporary Fiction and Author of The Year, and Storyteller of the Year in 2008 at the 1st Annual Essence Literary Awards.
29. Floyd Little, football legend, 78Source:Getty
College and professional football star Floyd Little died on New Year’s Day. He was 78 years old and died following a brief battle with cancer. In 1964, Little chose to attend Syracuse University, where he was a three-time all-American. That collegiate stardom paved Little’s way to star in the then-AFL for the Denver Broncos, a team that later became part of the larger group of professional football franchises popularly known as the NFL. Speaking of “franchise,” that became Little’s nickname on the Broncos as he went on to set several rushing marks.