Join Jim and Greg as they welcome far lower COVID-19 death projections than we were seeing just days ago but hope they still go much lower. They also wonder why Wisconsin is still holding elections in the midst of a stay-at-home order and fear Republicans will get blamed for any rise in cases linked to voting lines. And they hammer NBC for reporting China’s bogus numbers on COVID cases and deaths as if they are accepted facts.
Pull up a stool and join Jim and Greg as they offer the second installment of their prestigious year-end awards. Today they remark on the political figures they’re most sorry to see pass away in 2019. They also share their choices for rising political stars and the political figures who appear to be fading into oblivion – rarely to be heard from again.
Each year brings the passing of those whose work we loved in the arts and entertainment. From television to the movies to music and more, we bid many final farewells to our favorite stars in 2017.
In television, one of the biggest hits of the 1960’s was “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and a critical factor in that success was Mary Tyler Moore’s portrayal of Laura Petrie. Four years after that show ended, Moore rocketed to superstardom as the star of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The program was a smash hit throughout the seventies, with Moore playing Mary Richards, who tried to maintain sanity at a Minneapolis television station. Mary Tyler Moore, who turned the world on with her smile, died at age 80.
Another iconic program from the sixties was “The Andy Griffith Show,” and one of the great ensemble characters was Gomer Pyle, played by singer and actor Jim Nabors. Pyle was so popular, Nabors started in the spinoff “Gomer Pyle USMC.” Nabors also recorded many albums and famously sang “Back Home in Indiana” each year before the Indianapolis 500. Nabors was 87.
There’s never been a comedian like Don Rickles. After all, how many people feel honored to be insulted? Rickles was known for his good-natured haranguing of celebrities and audience members for decades. Also the star of TV’s “CPO Sharkey,” Rickles was 90 when he died in April.
Perry Mason wouldn’t have won so many cases without the help of his faithful assistant Della Street. Street’s character in the original television series was the work of actress Barbara Hale. She was 94.
“Batman” was only on television for a couple of seasons, but Adam West made a career out of portraying the caped crusader in the campy sixties series and for millions of fans will always be the true Batman. West was 88.
David Cassidy rose to fame as as Keith Partridge on the classic 1970’s television series, “The Partridge Family.” But Cassidy quickly became a teen heartthrob and branched out into a very successful music career most famous for songs like “I Think I Love You.” Cassidy was 67.
Robert Guillame also shot to stardom in the seventies, playing Benson DuBois, first in a supporting role on the racy sitcom “Soap,” and then starring as a government official on “Benson.” Among the first leading black actors on a primetime sitcom, Guillame was 89.
Joe Mannix was one of America’s favorite private eyes in the sixties and seventies. Actor Mike Connors starred as “Mannix.” Connors died in January. He was 91.
Richard Hatch became a household name for his role as Captain Apollo in the original “Battlestar Galactica” series. Hatch was 71.
Erin Moran was America’s little sister in the seventies as she portrayed Joanie Cunningham on “Happy Days.” After a long and successful run on that program, Moran starred in the spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachie.” Moran died of cancer in April. She was 56.
On “Magnum P.I.,” Thomas Magnum was the free-wheeling private eye and Higgins was the exact opposite. The uptight character was the work of actor John Hillerman. He was 84.
Anyone who was “Touched By An Angel,” was touched by the acting excellence of Della Reese. Also an accomplished singer, the beloved Della Reese died in November. She was 86.
Jay Thomas was a highly respected comedy actor in the eighties and nineties. Known for his recurring guest appearances on “Cheers” and “Murphy Brown,” Thomas also starred for three seasons on the sitcom “Love and War.” Thomas was 69.
Two legendary game show hosts left us in 2017. Monty Hall usually had a trinket in his pocket and set the stage for contestants to win big or leave the show embarrassed. It was all part of the appeal of “Let’s Make A Deal.” Hall was 96 when he died in September.
Chuck Barris hosted the “Gong Show,” which hosted legitimately talented acts and some real stinkers – who would get gonged off the stage. Later in life, he claimed to have been a CIA assassin for years prior to his time as a game show host. Barris was 87.
Long before there was Judge Judy or any other reality tv court programs, Judge Joseph Wapner ruled over “The People’s Court.” A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge for 18 years prior to his television years, Wapner settled small claims issues in the hugely popular syndicated series. Wapner died in February. He was 97.
June Foray was a voice actor for some of our most beloved animated characters, including both Rocky the flying squirrel and Natasha on “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” as well as Cindy Lou Who from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” June Foray was 99.
At the movies, Jerry Lewis was famous for 60 years. Known for his comedic partnership with Dean Martin and film roles such as “The Nutty Professor,” Lewis later became known for hosting the annual Labor Day telethon for Jerry’s kids at the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Jerry Lewis was 91.
No character on the big screen has ever been as smooth as British agent James Bond. In seven installments of the long-running franchise, including “Live and Let Die” and “The Man With the Golden Gun,” Bond was played by actor Roger Moore. Moore died in May. he was 89.
“The Exorcist” remains one of the most terrifying movies ever made. The film was based on the book written by William Peter Blatty. Blatty died in January. He was 88.
Bill Paxton starred in a number of blockbusters, ranging from “Apollo 13” to “Twister” to “Titanic.” Paxton died from surgical complications in February. He was 61.
One director said John Hurt was simply the greatest actor in the world. Best known for his work in “Alien” and “A Man for All Seasons” among many other acclaimed performances, John Hurt died of cancer in January. He was 77.
Martin Landau was a fixture in American cinema for several decades. Highly regarded for his performances in “North by Northwest” and “Tucker: A Man and His Dream,” Landau also won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Ed Wood.”
Stephen Furst did a lot of projects throughout his acting career, including stint on TV’s “St. Elsewhere.” But he’ll always be known as Flounder in “Animal House.” Furst was 62.
Glenne Headly turned heads for her acting ability in films such as “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” and “Dick Tracy.” Glenne Headly was 63.
Robert Osborne was best known for talking about movies as extolled the legendary films on Turner Classic Movies. Osborne died in March. He was 84.
In music, rock and roll has had few figures more influential or more famous than Chuck Berry. Known for his stellar guitar playing, his duck walk and classics like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and the Christmas favorite “Run, Run Rudolph,” Berry was 90 when he died in March.
Fats Domino was another figure who transformed the music scene in the early days of rock and roll. Known for classics like “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t That A Shame,” and “I’m Walkin’”, Domino later narrowly survived the ravages of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He died in October. Fats Domino was 89.
Tom Petty’s versatility knew no bounds. Regarded as one of the greatest guitar players in the business, Petty thrilled fans for four decades as the leader of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and also for his work with the Traveling Wilburys. Tom Petty was 66.
One of the greatest country music legends also died this year. The Wichita Lineman himself, Glen Campbell, succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease at the age of 81. During his decades-long career, Campbell was also known for hits like “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Galveston.”
One of the most popular country duos in modern times is Montgomery Gentry. Nashville was stunned in September when Troy Gentry was killed in a helicopter crash. He was 50 years old.
The Allman Brothers drew a huge following in the 1970’s for their easily recognizable sound and hits like “Whipping Post,” “Melissa” and “Midnight Rider,” all of which were written by the talented Greg Allman. Also known for his brief marriage to Cher, Allman was 69 when he died in May.
On the heavy metal scene, no group is as easily distinguishable as AC/DC. Guitarist Malcolm Young was a critical part of the band’s success. Young died in November. He was 64.
Another fan favorite in the early 1980’s was the J. Geils band with hits like “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame.” Guitarist John Geils was the man behind the band’s name. He died in April age age 71.
That’s a look at the famous people we lost in television, film, and music. Please look elsewhere on this site to remember those who passed away in politics, the media, and sports.
As 2017 heads for the finish line, it is appropriate to look forward to all the possibilities of the coming year. But it is also important to reflect upon the past 12 months. And for the next few minutes, we’ll be remembering the famous figures from many different walks of life who left us this year. For the next few moments, we pay tribute to those who passed away in the arenas of politics, media, business and sports.
In politics, Helmut Kohl was a voice for freedom in a divided Germany as chancellor of West Germany and then led the reunification of east and west after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Helmut Kohl was 87.
Two other prominent players on the world stage died this year who will be remembered in the U.S. as villains. Panama strong man Manuel Noriega once enjoyed a friendly relationship with the United States but a long track record of drug trafficking, suppressing democracy and eventually the death of a U.S. Marine led to an American invasion to depose Noriega late in 1989. Later sentenced to decades in prison, Noriega died in May. He was 83.
Before Osama bin Laden, there was Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. In 1993, the blind sheikh masterminded the first bombing of the World Trade Center. He also plotted to blow up other New York City landmarks. Successfully prosecuted by our friend Andrew McCarthy, Rahman spent the last two decades behind bars. He died in February at age 78.
Saudi billionaire Adnan Kashoggi was an international wheeler and dealer for decades, but he became best known for serving as a middle man in the Iran-Contra affair, as the U.S. traded arms with Iran in exchange for American hostages to be released from Lebanon. Adnan Kashoggi was 81.
Years earlier, foreign policy crises from the Iran hostage crisis to Soviet aggression in Afghanistan exposed some weaknesses in the Carter administration. One of Carter’s key aides was National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. He died in May at the age of 89.
Charles Manson wanted to start a race war back in the 1960’s. He succeeded in starting a cult that murdered several people, including actress Sharon Tate in 1969. The evil head of the Manson family died in November. He was 83.
Last decade, one of the biggest cultural scandals was the revelation that some in the Catholic Church had reassigned pedophile priests instead of reporting them and removing them from ministry. Boston Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law was perhaps the highest profile figure in the U.S. to be discovered doing this. In response to the scandal, Law was reassigned to Rome. He was 86.
This past summer an international political and medical debate played out in Britain over the fate of a baby named Charlie Gard. Officials in the UK determined Gard’s rare condition was irreversible and refused to let his parents take their critically ill son to the U.S. for therapies. After losing several legal fights, the end was inevitable. Little Charlie Gard died a month shy of his first birthday.
Two longtime Republican congressional figures died. Pete Domenici served 36 years in the U.S. Senate and was the top GOP member on the budget committee for 12 years. Domenici was 85. Bob Michel spent 38 years as a Republican congressman from Illinois. From 1981-1995, he served as House Minority Leader. Bob Michel was 93.
John Anderson was a liberal Republican congressman from Illinois for 20 years. In 1980, he sought the Republican presidential nomination and lost badly to Ronald Reagan. Undeterred, Anderson launched a third party bid against Reagan and President Jimmy Carter. Anderson carried no states and finished with about seven percent of the vote. Anderson died in December. He was 95.
Two prominent political activists also died in 2017. Norma McCorvey was the plaintiff in the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case and while she won the case, McCorvey later became a vigorous pro-life activist and lobbied for the abolition of abortion. McCorvey was 69.
The space race was a major political endeavor in the 1960’s, and the U.S. met President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The last man to set on the moon was Gene Cernan in 1972. Cernan died in January. He was 82.
Dick Gregory was a comedian who became more famous for his political activism on behalf of the black community and the poor. Gregory was 84.
In the media world, past and present figures from the Fox News Channel died this year. Roger Ailes built Fox News from a fledgling newcomer to the dominant player in cable news. Sexual harassment allegations led to his ouster in 2016. He died from complications of a fall at his home. Roger Ailes was 77.
Alan Colmes was a frequent liberal voice on Fox News for two decades, including a long primetime stint as co-host of “Hannity and Colmes.” Colmes died of cancer in February. He was 66.
Brenda Buttner was a longtime business report at Fox and hosted the weekend financial program “Bulls & Bears.” Buttner also died of cancer. She was 55.
Before Fox News took to cable, CNN’s “Capital Gang” made stars out of conservative writers, including National Review’s Kate O’Beirne. A brilliant political mind who was beloved on both sides of the aisle, O’Beirne died of cancer in April. She was 68.
Two of America’s greatest columnists also died this year. Jimmy Breslin was a legendary New York City writer for Newsday, the New York Daily News and several other publications. Breslin was 88. Frank DeFord brought the human touch to the sports pages and to his television commentary. DeFord died in May at age 78.
Hugh Hefner turned the Playboy lifestyle into a business empire and became a major flashpoint in the culture wars, with liberals crediting him for somehow empowering women while conservatives blamed him for objectifying women and sexualizing society. Hefner was 91.
Liz Smith was perhaps the best known and most widely read gossip columnist in America. Writing for several New York papers, Smith was 94.
One of the most famous sports broadcasters left us at the end of the year. The versatile Dick Enberg was NBC’s top play-by-play man for the NFL, college basketball, tennis, golf and the Olympics for many years, always punctuating the game’s biggest moments be exclaiming “Oh my!” Also a hall of of fame baseball announcer, Dick Enberg was 82.
In the sports world, Ara Parseghian revitalized Notre Dame football in the sixties and seventies and led the Fighting Irish to a pair of national championships in eleven seasons. Later a broadcaster, Parseghian was 94.
Parseghian arrived in South Bend in 1964, the same year Arkansas stunned the college football world by winning the national championship. Frank Broyles was the architect of that memorable season. He spent 19 seasons on the sideline in Fayetteville and 33 years as athletic director. Broyles was 92.
Dominant quarterbacks with rifle arms are commonplace today in the NFL, but one of the trailblazers in developing the modern passing game was Y.A. Tittle of the New York Giants. Tittle took the Giants to the brink of multiple titles, but fell just short each time. Y.A. Tittle was 90.
Aaron Hernandez was a dominant tight end who was a favorite target of Tom Brady for the New England Patriots. But just a few years into his career, Hernandez was charged and convicted of murder. He committed suicide in prison in April. Hernandez was 27.
Cortez Kennedy was a dominant hall of fame defensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks. Kennedy died suddenly in May. He was 48.
Two championship-winning college basketball coaches died this year. Jud Heathcote coached Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans to the 1979 national title in a game that effectively launched March Madness. Heathcote coached the Spartans for 20 years. He was 90.
Rollie Massimino coached at multiple schools but will always be remembered for leading the Villanova Wildcats to a huge upset over the heavily favored Georgetown Hoyas in the 1985 championship game. Massimino was 82.
Jerry Krause was a very successful NBA general manager for the Chicago Bulls. But he also rubbed his star players and coach the wrong way. Krause was the architect of six NBA championship teams in the 1990’s. Krause died in March. He was 77.
In baseball, we lost a pair of hall of famers. Bobby Doerr was an outstanding second baseman for the Boston Red Sox during the Ted Williams era. Also a World War II veteran, Doerr was 99 when he died in November.
Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964 and was an ace for three other teams as well over a 17-year career. Bunning won 224 games and had the second most strikeouts in history at the time of his retirement. Bunning later served six terms in the House of Representatives and two terms in the U.S. Senate. Bunning was 85.
Roy Halladay was a dominant pitcher for the Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays and helped Philadelphia win the 2008 World Series. Halladay was just 40 years when he died after crashing a plane he was piloting in Florida.
Darren Daulton was an all-star catcher for the Phillies and was a critical factor in the team capturing the 1993 National League pennant. Dutch Daulton died of brain cancer. He was 55.
Dallas Green also pitched for the Phillies and later managed them to the their first championship in 1980. Green also managed the Yankees and Mets and served as general manager for the Cubs. Green was 82.
Don Baylor played for six teams, most often as a designated hitter or first baseman. Baylor picked up a World Series ring with the Minnesota Twins in 1987. He later managed the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies. Baylor was 68.
Jimmy Piersall was probably better known for his mental health issues than for his play on the field. Piersall played for five teams, most notably the Boston Red Sox. His book and the subsequent film, “Fear Strikes Out,” greatly raised his profile. Piersall was 87.
Mike Ilitch was the billionaire founder of Little Caesar’s Pizza who later bought the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings. The Tigers never won a title during Ilitch’s reign but the Red Wings captured four Stanley Cups. Mike Ilitch was 87.
In the fighting world, Jake LaMotta was a middleweight champion in the late forties and early fifties. Later immortalized in the film “Raging Bull,” LaMotta was 95.
Jana Novotna was an elite tennis player for years on the women’s tour. She gained worldwide notoriety for losing a commanding lead in the 1993 Wimbledon finals and sobbing on the shoulder of the dutchess handing out the trophies. Five years later, Novotna secured the Wimbledon crown. She died of cancer in November. Jana Novotna was 49.
Two famous pro wrestlers also left us. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka died in January at age 73. George “The Animal” Steele was known for his green tongue, incomprensible babbling, and eating turnbuckles. In reality, he had a master’s degree and was a high school teacher and coach. Steele was 79.
That’s a look at the famous people we lost in politics, the media, and sports. Please look for our look back at those we lost in television, the movies and music.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America unveil their choices in three more categories for Three Martini Lunch awards for 2017. They begin on a somber note by honoring figures they were sorry to see pass away in 2017. Jim chooses a peacemaker on the international stage and Greg highlights a joyful and faithful conservative in Washington. They also reveal their choices for rising political star, with both selections coming from the U.S. Senate. And they discuss the political characters who exited the political stage and are likely to soon be forgotten.
2016 witnessed the passings of legends in all walks of life. And entertainment was certainly no exception. From television to music, famous performers took their final bows this year. For the next few minutes, we’ll take a look back, beginning on the big screen.
Gene Wilder worked often with Mel Brooks and the combination led to some of cinema’s greatest comedies. Known for ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘Young Frankenstein.” Also famous separately for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” among many other roles, Gene Wilder died in August. He was 83.
George Kennedy usually found himself in dramatic roles, whether for ‘Cool Hand Luke,’ ‘The Dirty Dozen,’ ‘Airport,’ or ‘The Eiger Sanction. But he could also make a comedic turn as he did in three “Naked Gun” films. Kennedy died in February. He was 91.
Alan Rickman could play virtually any character, but he was best as a deliciously evil villain, such as in the action classic ‘Die Hard.’ Also known for his work in the ‘Harry Potter’ movies and as the sheriff of Nottingham in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,’ Rickman died of cancer in January. He was 69.
Anton Yelchin was a young actor with a world of promise ahead of him. Best known for playing Chekov in the recent ‘Star Trek’ reboots, Yelchin was tragically killed when his vehicle crushed him as he was getting his mail. Yelchin was just 27.
Charmian Carr will forever be sixteen going on seventeen. Immortalized as the eldest Von Trapp daughter, Liesl, in ‘The Sound of Music,’ Carr died in September at age 73.
One of the most inspiring aspects of the ‘Rocky’ series is the passion shown by actor Tony Burton whether he’s in the corner for Rocky or archrival Apollo Creed. Burton died in February. He was 78.
And Zsa Zsa Gabor died in December. One of three famous Gabor sisters, the Hungarian-born actress best known for ‘Moulin Rouge’ later became known for her nine marriages and playing herself dozens of times. Gabor died at age 99 after many years of poor health.
In television, one of America’s most beloved TV moms died this year. Florence Henderson will always be known as Carol Brady – the lovely lady bringing up three very lovely girls – on ‘The Brady Bunch.’ Henderson died in November. She was 82.
A more recent TV mom who left us this year was Doris Roberts, immortalized for her depiction of Marie Barone – the hovering and opinionated mother and mother-in-law on “Everybody Loves Raymond.’ Roberts was 90.
Patty Duke began as a star on Broadway and the big screen with her portrayal of Helen Keller in ‘The Miracle Worker.’ She then played identical cousins on ‘The Patty Duke’ show. Active in show business for decades to follow, Duke was 60 when she died in March.
Alan Young was famous for talking to a horse – and even more impressively the horse talked back. Young was the star of ‘Mr. Ed.’ He was 96 when he died in May.
Hugh O’Brian served our nation in World War II and cleaned up the streets of Dodge City in ‘The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.’ Inspired by Albert Schweitzer, O’Brian later devoted himself to helping young people develop into leadership roles through the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership program. O’Brian was 91.
Robert Vaughn became a household name as Napoleon Solo, also known as ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ Vaughn was also acclaimed for his work on the silver screen in classics like ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and ‘Bridge at Remagen.’ Vaughn died just shy of his 84th birthday in November.
By the time the 1970s rolled around, Americans were already nostalgic for the ‘50s. ‘Happy Days’ captured the era perfectly, and the smash hit series was the work of director Garry Marshall. Also the brains behind successful spinoffs like ‘Laverne and Shirley’ and ‘Mork and Mindy,’ Garry Marshall was 81.
‘One Day at a Time’ was a CBS sitcom about a single mom raising two daughters. The only regular male character was also the comic relief found in apartment superintendent Schneider. Schneider was the work of actor Pat Harrington, who died of Alzheimer’s disease in January. He was 86.
‘Alice’ was seen on the same night as ‘One Day at a Time’ and also focused on the working class. Actress Beth Howland was always good for a laugh as the spacy but endearing Vera. Howland was 74.
Another 70s hit was the police comedy ‘Barney Miller.’ The ensemble cast of detectives included Ron Glass as Harris. Harris died in November. He was 71.
Joining ‘Barney Miller’ as a hit ABC comedy was ‘Benson,’ as viewers followed the exploits inside the governor’s mansion of a fictional administration. Gov. Gene Gatling was well-intentioned but not very sharp. Gatling was portrayed by actor James Noble. Noble died in March at age 94.
The 1980s were full of memorable TV dads. Alan Thicke was one of the most recognizable. Thicke’s portrayal of Dr. Jason Seaver on ‘Growing Pains’ helped make the show a smash hit. Known in later years as the father of singer Robin Thicke, Alan Thicke was 69 when he suffered a heart attack while playing hockey and later dying at the hospital. Thicke was 69.
George Gaynes is known to fans of the 80s for two roles, first as Commandant Eric Lassard in the ‘Police Academy’ movies and later as adoptive dad Henry Warnimont on ‘Punky Brewster.’ George Gaynes was 98 when he died in February
Garry Shandling was a stellar stand-up comedian who eventually became a frequent guest host for Johnny Carson. In the late 1980s, Shandling starred in the aptly titled ‘It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.’ In the ‘90s, Shandling starred as Larry Sanders on the acclaimed HBO series, ‘The Larry Sanders Show.’ Shandling died suddenly in March. He was 66.
‘Law and Order’ was a staple of prime time television for nearly 20 years. For more than half that time, the role of curmudgeonly, deal-making district attorney Adam Schiff was the work of actor Steven Hill. Hill was 94.
In music, country music lost one of its greatest legends. Merle Haggard was one of the original outlaws and had lived a rough life before he pursued and achieved stardom. One of the great writers in Opry history, Haggard was 79.
Holly Dunn scored multiple hits during her country music career. Known for ‘Daddy’s Hands’ and ‘you Really Had Me Going,’ Dunn was 59.
Music had never seen anything quite like David Bowie in terms of his sound or his look. Known best for classic songs like ‘Under Pressure,’ Bowie broke every conventional mold and always found a huge audience. Bowie died in January. He was 69.
In April, the music world was stunned by the unexpected death of Prince. A guitar whiz and the man behind ‘Purple Rain,’ ‘Little Red Corvette,’ ‘When Doves Cry,’ ‘1999’ and so many other hits, Prince died of a drug overdose at his Minnesota home. He was 57.
There was no bigger act in the late 70s than the Eagles, and Glen Frey was one of the biggest reasons for the massive success. Frey died in January. Frey was 67.
Paul Kantner was a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, which later transformed into Jefferson Starship. Also playing lead guitar for the band, Kantner was 74 when he died in January.
George Martin was known as the fifth Beatle. The powerhouse producer helped launch the Fab Four from Liverpool to the most famous music act in the world. Martin was 90.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer was a unique group in the 70s, finding a way to translate classical music into rock and roll. Both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake died this year. Emerson was 71. Lake was 69.
Just about everyone has heard Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ in some form. Cohen died in November at age 82.
George Beverly Shea sang the solos at the Billy Graham Crusades but some of the largest choirs ever assembled at those gatherings were directed by Cliff Barrows. Barrows served as music director for the crusades for many decades. He was 93.
2016 was an unforgettable year for many reasons. In addition to an historic presidential race and a year full of significant national and international events, we also pause to remember those who left us this year – from the arenas of politics and sports to television, film and music. And we begin with politics…
Nancy Reagan spent 16 years as a first lady, eight in California and eight in the White House while her husband served as governor and president. She was known as Nancy Davis in Hollywood. When her name mistakenly appeared on a list of communist sympathizers in Hollywood, she went to Screen Actors Guild President Ronald Reagan for help. He asked her to dinner and the rest is history. Known best for her “Just Say No” campaign against the scourge of drugs in the 1980s, Mrs. Reagan also earned worldwide admiration for her tireless care of her husband during his decade-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Nancy Reagan was 94 when she died in March.
One of President Reagan’s longest lasting legacies was his nomination of Justice Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court. For nearly 29 years, Scalia was the most visible conservative on the court, although he referred to himself as a textualist. Scalia was adored on the right and reviled by the left, but was well-respected in the legal community for his incisive questioning and strongly written decisions. Scalia died while on vacation in February. He was 79.
In the early years of the space race, there was no greater American hero than John Glenn. The heroic Marine Corps fighter pilot served in World War II and Korea. Soon after he became one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. In 1962, Glenn achieved legend status when he became the first American to orbit the earth. In 1974, Glenn won the first of four terms to the U.S. Senate from Ohio. In 1984, he sought a promotion to president, but never gathered much steam towards the Democratic nomination. John Glenn died in December at the age of 95.
Glenn’s trip to space came the same year the U.S. and the Soviet Union nearly fought a nuclear war as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Fidel Castro won his Cuban revolution in 1959 and quickly embraced communism and the USSR. Instead of freeing his people as promised, Castro repressed them – jailing tens of thousands, executing others and stifling freedoms while thumbing his nose at the U.S. Castro, who handed over presidential duties to his brother a decade ago, died in November. He was 90.
Phyllis Schalfly never held elective office, but few individuals have had a greater impact on American politics in the past 50 years. Schalfly burst onto the scene during the 1964 campaign with her book, ‘A Choice Not An Echo,’ which demanded a strong conservative alternative to business as usual in the Republican Party. For her next act, Schlafly singlehandedly led the effort defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, which would she said would have enshrined the worst of feminism in the Constitution. Ratification seemed like a foregone conclusion but Schlafly’s grassroots movement successfully lobbied enough states to stop the amendment in its tracks. Active until her final days, Schlafly died of cancer in September. She was 92.
One of the most famous liberal activists in the 1960s and 1970s was Tom Hayden. Known for his fierce opposition for the Vietnam War and for being a leading figure in the countercultural movement, Hayden was later married to Jane Fonda. Hayden died in October. He was 76.
No one spent more time as Attorney General of the United States than Janet Reno. Reno served all eight years of the Clinton administration and received the most attention for authorizing the raid against the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993 and for her role in returning six-year-old Elian Gonzalez to Cuba in the year 2000 after he washed ashore in Florida the year before. Reno was 78.
Two long-serving former senators died in 2016. Dale Bumpers served four terms as a Democrat from Arkansas. Just days after retirement in 1999, he returned to the Senate floor to plead with his colleagues not to remove President Clinton from office. Dale Bumpers was 90.
Bob Bennett was a three-term Republican from Utah. He died in May at age 82.
One of the most famous pieces of legislation signed in the early days of the Obama was the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, purported to put some restraints on Wall Street in the wake of the economic crisis. Ohio Republican Congressman Mike Oxley was one of the principal authors. Also a committee chairman earlier in his congressional tenure, Oxley was 71 when he died in January.
On the world stage, Israeli President Shimon Peres was the last active political figure in his nation whose service spanned the entire history of the modern state of Israel. Also serving twice as prime minister, Peres shared a Nobel Peace prize in 1994 for his efforts toward Middle East peace via the Oslo Accords. Shimon Peres died from a stroke in September. He was 93.
The man leading the United Nations when Peres was receiving the Nobel Peace Prize was Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Later ousted at the behest of the United States after just one term as secretary-general, Boutros-Ghali died in February. He was 93.
The world’s longest-reigning monarch died this year. King Bhumibol ascended to the throne of Thailand in 1946 and stayed there for more than 70 years. He died in October at age 88.
Two colorful former mayors who had issues with the law also died this year. Buddy Cianci spent two different stretches as mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, totaling 21 years. However, criminal charges ended both terms. A racketeering conviction led to a four year prison term following his final stint in office.
North of the border, former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford became known for his battles with drugs and alcohol more than his work for the city. Ford died from cancer in March. He was 46.
Some of the most impactful writers also passed away this year. Elie Wiesel was a holocaust survivor who gripped the world with his account of the experience in the best-selling “Night.” Also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Elie Wisesel was 87 when he died in July.
Harper Lee captivated the nation with “To Kill A Mockingbird,” which then turned into a blockbuster film starring Gregory Peck. Lee then vanished from the public eye until another book was published in her name shortly before her death. Harper Lee was 89.
W.P Kinsella’s work led millions of Americans to the “Field of Dreams.” Kinsella was 81.
Three prominent Christian writers died this year as well. Dr. Charles Ryrie was a decades-long biblical scholar and teacher. He died in February at age 90. Jerry Bridges was known for his challenging writings on holiness and godliness. He was 86. And Tim LaHaye became famous for his “Left Behind” series on the end times although he authored other scholarly works as well. LaHaye was 90.
We also lost some of the most well-known media figures in 2016. Morley Safer was one of the ’60 Minutes’ correspondents who was on the job for decades. Doing both hard news and soft features, Safer was 84 when he died in May – just one day after retiring.
John McLaughlin changed political television forever by holding spirited discussions with reporters of all political persuasions – and making stars out of the journalists in the process. The founder of ‘The McLaughlin Group’ held court for nearly 35 years and hosted the program right up to his death in August. McLaughlin was 89.
Gwen Ifill was an accomplished print reporter before heading to television at NBC News and later PBS. Ifill hosted two vice-presidential debates and served as co-host of ‘The Newshour’ on PBS. She died from cancer in November. She was 61.
She spent more time talking about Catholic doctrine than politics, but Mother Angelica was a very recognizable face to viewers of EWTN. A critical figure in the founding of the network, Angelica was 92.
Two famous faces in sports journalism died this year as well. John Saunders was a versatile studio host and game announcer for ESPN and ABC. Saunders died suddenly in August. He was 61.
Craig Sager was known for his outlandish wardrobe and for his three decades covering the NBA on the sidelines. His valiant battle against leukemia inspired millions. Sager died in December at the age of 65.
In sports, we lost the king of golf. Arnold Palmer led his armies down the fairways as he won seven major championships, including four green jackets at the Masters. But Palmer’s greatest achievement is making golf appealing to the masses through his infectious smile, personality and blue collar roots. Palmer died of heart failure in September. He was 87.
Mr. Hockey also left us in 2016. Gordie Howe was a gentle ambassador off the ice but threw lots of elbows on it. He also scored a lot of goals and set NHL records by the bushel in a career that spanned from the 1940s to the 1980s. Best known for his years with, Howe led Hockeytown to four Stanley Cups. Gordie Howe was 88.
Muhammad Ali said he was the greatest. And a lot of people agree. Born Cassius Clay, he won gold at the 1960 Summer Olympics and won his first heavyweight title in 1964. After surrendering his belt for refusing service in the Vietnam War, Ali was later part of epic fights with Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Known as much for his non-stop self-promotion as for his fighting, Ali was eventually a three-time champ. Muhammad Ali was 74 when he died in June.
In baseball, one of the great personalities over the years was Joe Garagiola. A childhood friend of Yogi Berra, Garagiola was a tremendous catcher in his own right. He won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1946 and played for three other teams in his career. Later Garagiola announced baseball’s game of the week and was a regular part of NBC’s ‘Today” show. Joe Garagiola was 90.
Monte Irvin was a World War II veteran of the Battle of the Bulge and would soon be one of the first black players in Major League Baseball. Best known for his years with the New York Giants, Irvin was on the World Series-winning 1954 team, was a five-time all-star and was later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. Monte Irvin was 96.
Ralph Branca probably wished he was never famous. His moment in history came in 1951, when as a reliever for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he served up the pennant-winning home run to Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants. Branca was 90.
One of the brightest young pitchers of this generation was Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins. All of Major League Baseball was stunned by his sudden death in a late-night boating accident in September. Jose Fernandez was just 24 years old.
The rise in the prestige and popularity of women’s college basketball can largely be traced to the work of legendary Tennessee Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt. Summitt took the job in Knoxville when women’s hoops was a mere afterthought. When she retired almost 40 years later, she had amassed eight national championships, seven national coach of the year awards and nearly 1,100 wins. Dementia cut her career short and took her life in June. Summitt was 64.
One of the brightest college stars on the men’s side in the 1980s was Dwayne “Pearl” Washington. He dazzled fans with his fast-break skills and scoring prowess as he put Syracuse basketball firmly on the map of perennial powers. His NBA career never matched the glory of his college years. Washington was 52 when he died in April.
Nate Thurmond wasn’t all that flashy. He was simply a beast in the low post and is known as one of the best defensive players and rebounders in NBA history. Playing most of his career with the San Francisco and then Golden State Warriors, Thurmond was 74 when he died of leukemia in July.
In football, the name Buddy Ryan is synonymous with dominant defense. Ryan was the architect of the vaunted 46 defense that propelled the Chicago Bears to one of the greatest seasons in NFL history and a blow-out win in Superbowl XX. Still the only assistant coach carried off the field after winning a title, Buddy Ryan was 85 when he died in June.
Dennis Green was a feisty and successful NFL coach. After a brief stint as head coach at Stanford, Green was hired by the Minnesota Vikings. There he promptly led the team to eight playoff appearances in nine seasons, including four division titles and two trips to the NFC championship game. Later find less success with the Arizona Cardinals, Green died in July. He was 67.
Dennis Byrd saw his playing career end in a moment of sudden tragedy and his life ended in a similar fashion. Byrd was a defensive end for the New York Jets when a collision with a teammate left him paralyzed. Later able to walk after much rehabilitation, Byrd died in a car accident in October. He was 50.
Lawrence Phillips was a great football talent who could not stay away from crime. Phillips was a key running back on national championship teams at Nebraska but never could find success in the NFL. Instead, he found his way to prison on assault and theft charges. Later accused of murdering his cellmate, Phillips allegedly hanged himself in his cell in January. He was 40.
Rashaan Salaam was a dominant back for Colorado at the same Phillips was tearing it up for Nebraska. Salaam rushed for more than 2,000 yards for the Buffaloes in 1994 and won the Heisman Trophy. After a promising rookie season in the NFL, injuries took their toll. Salaam took his life in December. He was 42.