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Soulvine: In memorium – 2015 in review

Soulvine pauses to remember trailblazing Black people and righteous White people who participated in the eternal quest for racial equality for people of color around the world

Soulvine pauses to remember trailblazing Black people and righteous White people who participated in the eternal quest for racial equality for people of color around the world

These people broke down barriers, excelled in their occupations and made significant contributions to society in general and to the struggle. May they all rest in peace.

December 2014

  • Lowell Steward, 95 – highly decorated WWII Tuskegee Airman, native Angeleno and Crenshaw district resident, Dec. 17
  • Larry Smith, 63 – hip-hop producer who worked with pioneering Run-DMC, Dec. 19
  • Bob ‘Showboat’ Hall, 87 – former Harlem Globetrotter, Dec. 24
  • Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, 75 – leader of Black Hebrew movement, Dec. 27

January 2015

  • Sylvia Jewell Johnson, 78 – trailblazing California probation official, Jan. 1
  • Edward W. Brooke III, 95 – First Black U.S. senator (Massachusetts Republican) elected to the Senate by popular vote, Jan. 3
  • Stuart Scott, 49 – charismatic ESPN sports anchor, Jan. 4
    ComptonHerald.com | Stuart Scott

    ESPN Sportscaster Stuart Scott at the 2010 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game. Photo by Robby Gillespie/Wikimedia

  • Clarence E. Huntley Jr., 91 – Tuskegee airman, L.A. resident, Jan. 5
  • Joseph Shambrey, 91 – Tuskegee airman, L.A. resident, Jan. 5
    editor’s note – Clarence E. Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey were born within six weeks of each other in Los Angeles, and died within hours of one another, at age 91.
  • Jethro Pugh, 70 – ex-Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle, Jan. 7
  • Andraé Crouch, 72 – noted for his talent of incorporating contemporary secular music styles into gospel music, he became regarded as the father of modern gospel music, Jan. 8
  • Roy Tarpley, 50 – troubled Dallas Mavericks star center, Jan. 9
  • Phil Africa, 59 – imprisoned leader of Philadelphia-based ‘Move’ Black liberation group, Jan. 11
  • Clifford Adams, 62 – Kool and the Gang trombonist, who also toured with the Stylistics and Patti LaBelle, Jan. 12.
  • Asap Yams, 26 – creative force in hip-hop, Jan. 18
  • Rose Marie McCoy, 92 – songwriter for pop, rock and jazz legends, Jan. 20
  • James A.‘Jim’ Moss, 72 – prominent Black newspaper executive/publisher of two daily newspapers:
  • Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., and the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., Jan. 20
  • Ernie Banks, 83 – Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer, Jan. 23
  • Jackie Selebi, 64 – South Africa’s first Black national police commissioner, Jan. 23
  • Don Covay, 78 – singer and composer of soul music standards, Jan. 31

February

  • Rick Orlov, 66 – long-time Daily News’ City Hall reporter and one of the Soulvine’s closest friends, Feb. 2
    ComptonHerald.com | Jonell Nash

    Author Jonell Nash

  • Christophe Gbenye, 88 – radical nationalist leader in Congo wars during the 1960s, Feb. 3
  • Charlie Sifford, 92 – ‘Jackie Robinson of Golf’ – first Black member of Professional Golfers Assn. endured racial taunts from Whites, Feb. 3
  • Anne Moody, 74 – writer and civil rights activist who was attacked during 1963 sit-in at segregated Woolworth lunch counter in Jackson, Miss. who wrote the memoir “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” Feb. 5
  • Jerome Kersey, 52 – former Los Angeles Lakers star, Feb. 18
  • Harold Johnson, 87 – world light-heavyweight champion boxer, Feb. 19
  • Ahmad ‘Real’ Givens, 33 – one of two South L.A.-bred brothers who starred in a reality TV series, Feb. 21
  • Clark Terry, 94 – jazz trumpeter/flugelhornist – NBC network’s first Black staff musician was in The Tonight Show orchestra for 12 years, Feb. 21
  • Dori Maynard, 56 – ex-journalist and president of the Oakland-based Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which was founded by her father, who was the first Black person to own a major metropolitan newspaper, the Oakland Tribune. The Maynards championed newsroom diversity and trained dozens of minority journalists over 30 years. They became the first father-daughter duo to be appointed Harvard University Nieman scholars, Feb. 24
  • Earl Lloyd, 86 – first Black player in the NBA, Feb. 26
    ComptonHerald.com | Leonard Nimoy

    Leonard Nimoy. Photo: Beth Madison/Wikimedia

  • Jonell Nash, 72 – ‘Essence’ food editor and cookbooks author who stressed less fat in soul food, Feb. 27
  • Leonard Nimoy, 83 – Mr. Spock in the popular Star Trek TV series, Nimoy fought to maintain racial equality among the actors when studio officials set out to remove the non-White actors from their roles in the cast, Feb. 27
  • Alex Johnson, 72 – Angels slugger and only Angel to have won a batting title, Feb. 28
  • Anthony Mason, 48 – multiple award-winning basketball player for six U.S. and three foreign teams over a 13-year career, Feb. 27
  • Charmayne ‘Maxee’ Maxwell, 46 – sang with female contemporary R&B group Brownstone, Feb. 28

March

  • Minnie Minoso, 90 – major league baseball’s first Black-Latino star, Mar. 1
  • Vernon Watkins, 76 – public employees‘ labor leader and civil rights activist, March 5
  • Izola Ware Curry, 98 – mentally ill Black woman who almost killed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when she stabbed him at a 1958 Harlem book signing, Mar. 7
    ComptonHerald.com | Minnie Miñoso.

    Chicago White Sox left fielder Minnie Miñoso. Photo: public domain

  • Windell D. Middlebrooks, Jr., 36 – TV actor and Miller High Life spokesman, Mar. 10
  • Rev. Willie T. Barrow, 90 – front-line civil rights activist, Mar. 12
  • Paul Jeffrey, 81 – saxophonist/jazz educator, Mar. 30
  • Phyllis R. Klotman, 90 – Indiana University professor, founder and archivist of African-American cinema, Mar. 30

April

  • Dr. Irwin Schatz, 83 – fought with the U.S. Public Health Service to stop the 1965 syphilis experiments on uneducated Black men at Tuskegee Institute, April 1
  • Evelyn Starks Hardy, 92 – founder of Gospel Harmonettes, April 2
  • Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, 96 – Brooklyn pastor who had powerful voice for civil rights, April 5 (Easter Sunday)
  • Alton “Ben” Powers, TV actor, April 6
  • Dr. Gus Gill, head and neck surgeon who served in several capacities at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine for 40 years, April 7
  • Jimmy Gunn, 66 – All-American defensive end among USC’s 1969 football’s “Wild Bunch,” April 11
  • Art Powell, 78 – ex-Oakland Raiders and New York Titans star receiver who fought pro football’s racial discrimination, April 13
  • Percy Sledge, 74 – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame R&B, soul, gospel, and traditional pop singer best known for the song “When a Man Loves a Woman,” April 14
  • Johnny Kemp, 55 – Bahamian R&B singer best known for the million-selling song “Just Got Paid,” April 16
  • Michael R. Mitchell, 73 – who, along with Johnnie Cochran, represented the family of 21-year-old Black California State University, Long Beach football star Ron Settles who was killed by police while in jail on June 2, 1981. Mitchell and Cochran fought LAPD use of the lethal “choke-hold” and won restrictions of its use, April 17
    ComptonHerald.com | Dr. Levi Watkins Jr.

    Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Photo: nlm.nih.gov

  • Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., 70 – civil rights advocate and pioneering heart surgeon who was the first surgeon of any color to implant a heart defibrillator. Watkins, as John Hopkins’ School of Medicine’s first Black intern, opened the door for Black medical students, April 18
  • Calvin Peete, 71 – the most successful African-American to have played on the PGA Tour prior to Tiger Woods, April 29
  • Ben E. King, 76 – Drifters’ lead singer and solo performer best known as the singer and co-composer of numerous R&B classics including ”Stand by Me,” #25 on the RIAA’s list of Songs of the Century, April 30

May

  • Pete Brown, 80 – First Black golfer to win a PGA tour (1970) after Charlie Sifford broke the color barrier, May 1
  • Guy Carawan, 87 – iconic Santa Monica born folk singer who introduced “We Shall Overcome” to 1960s Mississippi civil rights activists. The song is designated “the most powerful song of the 20th Century” by the Library of Congress. Carawan did not write the song; it’s origin officially remains unknown, May 2
    ComptonHerald.com | Diane White Clatto

    Diane White Clatto. Photo: wlwt.com

  • Diane White Clatto, 76 – made broadcasting history in 1962 as the first Black full-time TV weather-caster in the U.S., May 4
  • Ann Shaw, 93 – trailblazing Los Angeles-area civic leader who served on numerous boards and commissions, May 5
  • Errol Brown, 71 – British-Jamaican singer and songwriter, best known as the frontman of the soul and funk band Hot Chocolate, and performer of the song “You Sexy Thing. In 2003, Queen Elizabeth II named Brown a Member of the Order of the British Empire, May 6
  • Jerome Cooper, 68 – jazz avant-garde percussionist and pianist and member of The Revolutionary Ensemble a group described as “one of the most crucial outfits to form in the decade,” May 6
  • Gilbert Lewis, 79 – TV actor best known for roles in Pee-wee’s Playhouse, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, General Hospital, and Alien Nation, May 7
  • Riley B. “B.B.” King, 89 – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame blues guitarist and singer known as ”King of the Blues.” Rolling Stone ranked King No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, May 14
    ComptonHerald.com | B.B. King

    B.B. King onstage (Toronto, 2007). Photo: Kasra Ganjavi/Wikipedia

  • Ortheia Barnes, 70 – famed ‘empress of soul’ R & B and jazz singer who opened for Motown greats and ultimately entered the ministry, May 15
  • Ollie “Downtown” Brown, 71 – baseball’s original Padre, May 15
  • Adrian Robinson Jr., 25 – former Temple gridiron standout defensive lineman and stellar linebacker, May 15
  • Raphael Tenthani, 43 – Malawi’s most prominent journalist, May 16
  • Lionel Pickens, 31 – rapper known as Chinx, May 17
  • Lu Vason, 76 – founded Bill Pickett Rodeo and drew attention to role of Black cowboys in the West, May 17
  • Louis Johnson, 60 – best known for his group The Brothers Johnson and his session playing on several hit albums of the 1970s and 1980s, May 21
  • Marques Haynes, 89 – Harlem Globetrotters’ dribbling great, May 22
  • Marcus Belgrave, 78 – famed jazz trumpeter, May 24
  • Reynaldo Rey, 75 – actor, comedian, and television personality, May 27
  • Henry Carr, 73 – gold medal Olympic sprinter and football giant, May 29
  • Mario Cooper, 61 – a giant in the fight against AIDS who linked together politicians, AIDS and gay rights advocates, and civil rights leaders to address the disproportionate effect of AIDS on minorities, May 29
  • Ronald Barrett, 66 – Loyola Marymount psychology professor and department head who specialized in the African-American perspective on death and dying, May 31
  • Dudley Williams, 76 – eloquent dancer in Alvin Ailey company who danced professionally for more than 40 years, May 31

June

  • Dolores R. Spikes, 78 – trailblazing president of Southern University and first woman to head a U. S. university system, June 1
    ComptonHerald.com | Dolores R. Spikes

    Dolores R. Spikes. Photo: umes.edu

  • Anthony Riley, 28 – front runner contestant on most recent “The Voice” TV show, June 2
  • Robert Alan Diaz, 39 – underground New York rapper known by his stage name Pumpkinhead or P.H., June 9
  • Ornette Coleman, 85 – saxophonist and 1960s jazz innovator who coined the term ‘free jazz’, June 11
  • Edna Anderson-Owens, 76 – long time assistant to Motown founder Berry Gordy. She served eight terms as board member of Los Angeles’ California Science Center – June 13
  • DeWayne Coleman, 47 – ’90s rapper who performed as ‘M.C. Supreme,’ best known for his single “Black in America, June 13
  • William E. Pajaud, 89 – noted artist/cartoonist who in 1949 became the first Black student admitted to Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), June 16
  • Harold Battiste Jr., 83 – prolific jazz musician/composer/producer/hit maker responsible for success of many popular singers. He created AFO Records (All For One), the country’s first Black musician-owned and operated record label. He was from New Orleans, but spent 30 years in the Los Angeles music industry, June 19
  • Darryl Hamilton, 50 – baseball broadcaster/analyst and former baseball major league outfielder, June 21
  • Harold Williams, 90 – architect who designed Compton City Hall, June 21
  • Albert Evans, 46 – retired principal dancer with the New York City Ballet Company, June 22
  • Marva Collins, 78 – innovative Chicago educator whose life was depicted in the 1981 TV biopic “The Marva Collins Story” starring Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman, June 24
  • Claud Johnson, 83 – son and sole heir of legendary Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson, June 30

July

  • Charlie Sanders, 68 – Hall of Famer deemed one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL, July 2
  • John A. Williams, 89 – author who was part of second Harlem Renaissance. Hailed as “arguably the finest African-American novelist of his generation,” July 3
    United States DistrictComptonHerald.com | Judge Lawrence K. Karlton

    United States District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton. Photo: public domain

  • Claudia Alexander, 56 – brilliant NASA scientist who oversaw the dramatic conclusion of the Galileo mission to Jupiter and managed the U.S. role in the international comet-chasing Rosetta Project, July 11
  • Judge Lawrence K. Karlton, 80 – federal judge who pushed for California prison reforms that forced the state to provide basic services to severely mentally ill prisoners, July 11
  • Judge D’Army Bailey, 73 – circuit court judge/civil rights activist who rescued and transformed the Memphis’ Lorraine Motel (where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated) into the National Civil Rights Museum, July 12
  • Chenjerai Hove, 59 – one of Zimbabwe’s leading writers – considered a national treasure. He was the first president of the Zimbabwe Writers Union, July 12
  • Howard Rumsey, 97 – bass player who turned his Hermosa Beach Lighthouse Club into ground zero for West Coast jazz after battling the White establishment and local police who harassed and tailed musicians Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Thelonius Monk, Cannonball Adderley, Art Blakey, Wes Montgomery, and other Black musicians who went to Rumsey’s Lighthouse Club to play, July 15
  • Mildred Joanne Smith, 94 – actress who starred opposite Sidney Poitier in his 1950 “No Way Out” film debut, July 19
  • Robert Wesley Jones, 86 – realtor and first African- American Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) in the U.S., July 21
  • James L. White, 67 – wrote screenplay for Ray Charles biopic, ‘Ray,’ July 23
  • Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22 – daughter of the late Whitney Houston, July 26
  • Oba Okunade Sijuwade, 85 – Nigeria’s Ooni of Life (monarch), July 29

August

  • Brian Breye, 79 – created Leimert Park’s ‘Museum In Black,’ Aug. 3
  • Mel Farr, 70 – former UCLA and Detroit Lions star running back, Aug. 3
  • Lynn Manning, 60 – blind poet and athlete who founded Watts Theater Group, Aug. 3
  • Sean Price, 43 – New York rapper and member of hip hop duo Heltah Skeltah, Aug. 8
  • Judge Marcus O. Tucker Jr., 80 – first African-American to serve as presiding judge of Long Beach Municipal/Superior Court. He advocated restorative justice for teen aged offenders, Aug. 8
  • Gary Keys, 81 – filmmaker who documented jazz greats, Aug. 9
    ComptonHerald.com | Dr. James Mays

    Dr. James Mays. Photo: YouTube

  • Edward Thomas, 95 – one of Houston, Tex. first Black police officers. Joined the police force in 1948 and retired in 2011. He died two weeks after Houston’s police headquarters was named in his honor, Aug. 10
  • Julian Bond, 75 – civil rights leader, longtime chairman of the NAACP and co-founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Aug. 15
  • Doudou N’diaye Rose, 85 – Senegalese drummer regarded as “Human Treasure,” Aug. 19
  • Louis Stokes, 90 – first Black member of Congress who represented Ohio for 15 terms, Aug. 19
  • Rev. George M. Houser, 99 – Freedom Rides pioneer and one of the three founders of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Aug. 19
  • Tony Gleaton, 67 – photographer who documented Black cowboys, Africa’s legacy in Mexico, the African diaspora in Latin America, Aug. 21
  • Dr. James Mays, 77 – former head cardiologist at Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital and Drew Medical Center and a South L.A. community activist, Aug. 21
  • Marcy Borders, 42 – “dust lady” who survived 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and became famous wandering New York covered in dust and grime, Aug. 24
    ComptonHerald.com | Ameila Boynton Robinson

    Ameila Boynton Robinson. Photo: Ianbailey1983 /Wikimedia

  • Frank E. Peterson, 83 – first Black aviator and first Black general in the U.S. Marine Corps, Aug. 25
  • Amelia Boynton Robinson, 104 – iconic civil rights activist who was pivotal figure in Selma March and first Black woman to run for Congress in Alabama, Aug. 26
  • Darryl Dawkins, 58 – member of NBA Philadelphia 76ers known as “Chocolate Thunder,” Aug. 27
  • Kyle Jean-Baptiste, 21 – Broadway actor and the youngest man and only African-American to play the lead role of Jean Valjean in Broadway’s classic “Les Miserables,” Aug. 29
  • Blondell Cummings, 70 – modern dancer/choreographer, Aug. 30
  • Lynn Walker Huntley, 69 – prominent national civil rights lawyer, Aug. 30
  • Dr. J. Donald Millar, 81 – led CDC mission that helped eradicate smallpox in 20 African countries during the 1960s, Aug. 30

September

  • William H. Grier, 89 – psychiatrist who delved into Black rage of the 1960s and wrote groundbreaking book “Reflections on the Negro Psyche,” Sept. 3
  • Alberta Wright, 84 – soul food pioneer, whose restaurants took soul food out of the ghetto and into mainstream America, Sept. 4
  • Dennis Greene, 66 – founding member of doo-wop group ‘Sha Na Na’, who became University of Oregon law professor, Sept. 5
  • Helen Burns Jackson, 92 – mother of civil rights leader, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and a talented musician in her own right, Sept. 7
  • Joaquin Andujar, 62 – Dominican two-time all-star Cardinals pitcher, Sept. 8
  • Kool DJ A.J. Scratch, (age unknown) pioneering New York radio disc jockey since the 1970s, Sept. 9
  • Roy Marble, 48 – scoring star of top Iowa University basketball teams in the 1980s, Sept. 11
  • Max Beauvoir, 79 – “The Ate” — Haiti’s supreme voodoo priest, Sept. 12
  • Moses Malone, 60 – 14-time All-Star member of NBA Philadelphia 76ers known as “Chairman of the Boards.” One of the greatest centers in the history of pro basketball, Sept. 13
  • Carey W. Gabay, 43 – son of Jamaican immigrants who became a state lawyer in New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. He was a bystander killed in a shootout between Brooklyn street gangs, Sept. 15
    ComptonHerald.com | Wilton Felder

    Wilton Felder. Photo: MCA Records

  • Todd James Britt, 51 – murdered while walking his dog at 6 p.m. in Vermont Knolls, Sept. 16
  • Rev. Everett C. Parker, 102 – founder of United Church of Christ and media activist who fought TV and radio racial bias. Won landmark lawsuit against media racism, Sept. 17
  • Elson Floyd, 59 – Washington State University president, Sept. 19
  • Ben Cauley, 67 – trumpeter with the Bar-Kays and other groups. Was sole survivor of 1967 plane crash that killed singer Otis Redding, Sept. 21
  • Wendell Lee, 25 – South L.A. high school and college basketball star who was murdered in Willowbrook on the doorstep of his professional basketball dream, Sept. 22
  • Marilyn Hudson, 88 – community and civic leader who founded the Wilfandel Club, and was the first African-American to serve on Los Angeles’ redevelopment agency and Automobile Club boards of directors. Daughter of trailblazing Black architect, Paul Williams, Sept. 25
  • Wilton Felder, 79 – busy bassist and saxophonist who played on hundreds of recordings with the Crusaders, Michael Jackson, Nancy Wilson, Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, and many others, Sept. 27
  • Robert Curvin, 81 – scholar and co-founder of Newark, NJ chapter of CORE and fierce fighter of racism and poverty who in 1990 helped Kenneth Gibson, mayor of Newark be elected the first Black mayor of a major Northwest city, Sept. 29

October

  • Don Edwards, 100 – congressman from San Jose who championed civil rights once led the California
    ComptonHerald.com | Don Edwards

    Don Edwards. Photo: Wikipedia

    Young Democrats, but became one of the most liberal Democrats during his 32 years in Congress, where he drafted every civil rights bill in the House of Representatives during his final 20 years in office, Oct. 1.

  • Al Abrams, 74 – press officer and first person hired by Berry Gordy when he created the Motown record label. Abrams pushed for racial diversity and colorblindness in the music industry as he promoted the Motown label, Oct. 3
  • Peter Dougherty, 59 – TV exec who brought rap music to MTV, Oct. 12
  • Dr. Beny Primm, 87 – pioneer in AIDS prevention who advocated for changing the country’s public health policy toward intravenous drug users, Oct. 16
  • Leon Bibb, 93 – actor, folk singer, civil rights activist, Oct. 23
  • Luther “Ticky” Burden, 62 – former All-American Knicks’ guard, Oct. 29
    ComptonHerald.com | Peter Dougherty

    Peter Dougherty. Photo: ithaca.edu

  • Mel Daniels, 71 – basketball Hall of Fame center for Indiana Pacers and all-time rebound leader in American Basketball Assn. history, Oct. 30
  • Gus Savage, 90, journalist, civil rights activist and South Side Chicago’s congressman for 12 years, Oct. 31

November

  • Fred McNeill, 63 – Vikings’ linebacker in two Super Bowls who became a lawyer and spokesman for former football players’ health problems, Nov. 3
    ComptonHerald.com | Jacqueline Berrien

    Jacqueline Berrien. Photo: C-SPAN

  • Jacqueline Berrien, 53 – NAACP civil rights lawyer who chaired President Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 2010 to 2014, Nov. 9
  • Allen Toussaint, 77 – legendary New Orleans musician, Nov. 10
  • Mal Whitfield, 91 – Olympic gold medalist and Tuskegee Airman who grew up in Watts and went on to set record-breaking gold medal track and field performances in post-World War II Olympic games around the world. He became the first African-American to receive the coveted Sullivan Award as America’s Outstanding Amateur Athlete, Nov. 12
  • Hank Williams, 50 – Black tech entrepreneur who, in 1998 founded Click Radio, an Internet music provider, and in 2008, invented Kloudco, an Internet data storage service while he was president and CEO of Pastel Development Corp., where he also developed DayMaker, a personal information program. He pressed for greater racial diversity throughout the tech industry, Nov. 15.
  • Jonah Lomu, 40 – super star and record-setting scorer on The New Zealand national men’s rugby union team, Nov. 16
    ComptonHerald.com | Mal Whitfield

    Mal Whitfield at the 1948 Summer Olympics. Photo: Wikipedia

  • Bob Foster, 76 – 1960s light heavyweight boxing champion, Nov. 21
  • Cynthia Robinson, 71 – singer and trumpet playing member of soul group Sly and the Family Stone, Nov. 23
  • Eldzier Cortor, 99 – influential art teacher, elegant painter and print maker of nude Black women. One of the first Black artists to make Black women his dominant theme, Nov. 25
  • Msgr. Richard Albert, 69 – fought for the poor in Jamaica, Nov. 30

December

  • Harry Radliffe, 66 – first African-American to become a CBS bureau chief anywhere in the world when he became the network’s London Bureau chief some 26 years before becoming the producer of the CBS Evening News. He was the network’s top producing/Emmy Award-winning producer of the weekly “60 Minutes” program, Dec. 2
  • Melvin Williams, 73 – ex-Baltimore drug kingpin who had recurring role in “The Wire” TV series, Dec. 3
  • Mattiwilda Dobbs, 90 – Coloratura soprano who was the first African-American offered a long-term contract with the Metropolitan Opera. She was the third to appear as a principal singer with the Met (after Marian Anderson and Robert McFerrin). Dobbs was also the first Black principal singer at La Scala in Milan, at Covent Gardens in London and at the San Francisco Opera House, Dec. 8
    ComptonHerald.com | Mattiwilda Dobbs

    Mattiwilda Dobbs. Photo: Wikipedia/georgiaencyclopedia.org

  • C. Gerald Fraser, 90 – second African-American reporter hired by the New York Times. Fraser became a Times reporter in 1967, one year after the paper hired Thomas A. Johnson, its first Black writer. Fraser worked for the Times for 24 years. He was a vocal advocate for improving coverage of issues important to Black people and expanding opportunities for Black journalists, Dec. 8
  • Dr. Walter J, Leonard, 86 – known as father of educational diversity, he was chief architect of affirmative action admissions process at Harvard University that has been emulated across the U.S. Then, he restored fiscal stability to historically Black Fisk University while serving as president for seven years, Dec. 8
  • John Williams, 53 – versatile NBA player known as “Hot Rod,” Dec. 11
  • Charles F. Harris, 81 – rare Black Doubleday editor and publisher who embraced Black writers and explored Black issues, Dec. 16
  • Ozell Sutton, 90 – longtime civil rights activist who worked with Rev. MLK and who mediated peace and reconstruction in the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Dec. 19
  • William Guest, 74 – member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy-winning R&B group Gladys Knight and the Pips. Performed background vocals on hits such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia”, Dec. 24
    ComptonHerald.com | Natalie Cole

    Natalie Cole. Photo: dbking /Wikimedia

  • Meadowlark Lemon, 83 – known as the “Clown Prince” because of his incredible tricks, on-court charisma, and comedic antics as part of the touring Harlem Globetrotters basketball team for nearly 25 years, starting in 1955. In his tenure with the ‘Trotters, the team surged to widespread popularity in the 60s and 70s, playing for world leaders, huge arenas, and TV viewers; Lemon also became an ordained Christian minister, creating his own self-named evangelistic organization in 1994; inducted in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, Dec. 28
  • Natalie Cole, 65 – daughter of Nat King Cole, Natalie rose to musical success in the 70s as an R&B singer, then re-emerged as a pop artist with the 1987 album Everlasting. In the 90s, she re-recorded standards by her father, resulting in her biggest success selling more than seven million copies earning her numerous Grammy Awards, Dec 31

<p>Betty Pleasant is a contributing writer and columnist for the Compton Herald. She was formerly a reporter at the Los Angeles Sentinel and a columnist at the Los Angeles Wave.</p>

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