In a year defined by a devastating pandemic, the world lost iconic defenders of civil rights, great athletes and entertainers who helped define their genres.
Many of their names hold a prominent place in the collective consciousness — Kobe, Little Richard, Christo — but pandemic restrictions often limited the public’s ability to mourn their loss in a year that saw more than a million people die from the coronavirus.
Other former political figures who died this year include Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, Arizona Gov. Jane Hull, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar and FBI Director William S. Sessions.
Some of the year’s deaths struck down relatively young people, leaving mourners with the heartbreak of a life gone too soon.
Basketball great Kobe Bryant died along with several others in a January helicopter crash at age 41.
Others in the world of arts and entertainment who died in 2020 include actors Kirk Douglas, Irrfan Khan, Max von Sydow, Ian Holm and Rishi Kapoor; musicians Ellis Marsalis Jr., John Prine, Bonnie Pointer, Kenny Rogers and Juliette Greco; filmmakers Nobuhiko Obayashi, Joel Schumacher and Ivan Passer; authors Mary Higgins Clark and Clive Cussler; TV hosts Regis Philbin and Jim Lehrer; and magician Roy Horn.
Find a complete list on LimaOhio.com Here is a roll call of some influential figures who died in the first half of 2020 (cause of death cited for younger people, if available):
David Stern, 77. The basketball-loving lawyer who took the NBA around the world during 30 years as its longest-serving commissioner and oversaw its growth into a global powerhouse. Jan. 1.
Don Larsen, 90. The journeyman pitcher who reached the heights of baseball glory when he threw a perfect game in 1956 with the New York Yankees for the only no-hitter in World Series history. Jan. 1. Esophageal cancer.
Neil Peart, 67. The renowned drummer and lyricist from the influential Canadian band Rush. Jan. 7.
Buck Henry, 89. “The Graduate” co-writer who as screenwriter, character actor, “Saturday Night Live” host and cherished talk-show and party guest became an all-around cultural superstar of the 1960s and 70s. Jan. 8.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said, 79. He was the Mideast’s longest-ruling monarch who seized power in Oman in a 1970 palace coup and pulled his Arabian sultanate into modernity while carefully balancing diplomatic ties between adversaries Iran and the U.S. Jan. 11.
Terry Jones, 77. A founding member of the anarchic Monty Python troupe who was hailed by colleagues as “the complete Renaissance comedian” and “a man of endless enthusiasms.” Jan. 21.
Jim Lehrer, 85. The longtime host of the nightly PBS “NewsHour” whose serious, sober demeanor made him the choice to moderate 11 presidential debates between 1988 and 2012. Jan. 23.
Kobe Bryant, 41. The 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career spent entirely with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jan. 26. Helicopter crash.
Mary Higgins Clark, 92. She was the tireless and long-reigning “Queen of Suspense” whose tales of women beating the odds made her one of the world’s most popular writers. Jan. 31.
Bernard Ebbers, 78. The former chief of WorldCom who was convicted in one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in U.S. history. Feb. 2.
Kirk Douglas, 103. The intense, muscular actor with the dimpled chin who starred in “Spartacus,” “Lust for Life” and dozens of other films, helped fatally weaken the blacklist against suspected communists and reigned for decades as a Hollywood maverick and patriarch. Feb. 5.
Orson Bean, 91. The witty actor and comedian who enlivened the game show “To Tell the Truth” and played a crotchety merchant on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” Feb. 7. Hit by a car.
Robert Conrad, 84. The rugged, contentious actor who starred in the hugely popular 1960s television series “Hawaiian Eye” and “The Wild Wild West.” Feb. 8.
Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, 86. A longtime associate of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa who became a leading suspect in the labor leader’s disappearance and later was portrayed in the Martin Scorsese film, “The Irishman.” Feb. 13.
Sy Sperling, 78. The Hair Club for Men founder who was famous for the TV commercials where he proclaimed “I’m not only the Hair Club president but I’m also a client.” Feb. 19.
Barbara “B.” Smith, 70. She was one of the nation’s top Black models who went on to open restaurants, launch a successful home products line and write cookbooks. Feb. 22.
Katherine Johnson, 101. A mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and Earth orbits for NASA’s early space missions and was later portrayed in the 2016 hit film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering Black female aerospace workers. Feb. 24.
Hosni Mubarak, 91. The Egyptian leader who was the autocratic face of stability in the Middle East for nearly 30 years before being forced from power in an Arab Spring uprising. Feb. 25.
Jack Welch, 84. He transformed General Electric Co. into a highly profitable multinational conglomerate and parlayed his legendary business acumen into a retirement career as a corporate leadership guru. March 1. Renal failure.
James Lipton, 93. The longtime host of “Inside the Actors Studio.” March 2. Cancer.
Bobbie Battista, 67. She was among the original anchors for CNN Headline News and hosted CNN’s “TalkBack Live.” March 3. Cancer.
Charles Wuorinen, 81. A winner of the 1970 Pulitzer Prize in Music and composer of the operas “Brokeback Mountain” and “Haroun and the Sea of Stories.” March 11. Injuries suffered in a fall.
Lyle Waggoner, 84. He used his good looks to comic effect on “The Carol Burnett Show,” partnered with a superhero on “Wonder Woman” and was the first centerfold for Playgirl magazine. March 17.
Kenny Rogers, 81. The Grammy-winning balladeer who spanned jazz, folk, country and pop with such hits as “Lucille,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” and embraced his persona as “The Gambler” on records and TV. March 20.
Fred “Curly” Neal, 77. The dribbling wizard who entertained millions with the Harlem Globetrotters for parts of three decades. March 26.
Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, 98. A veteran civil rights leader who helped the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and fought against racial discrimination. March 27.
Joe Diffie, 61. A country singer who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles like “Home” and “Pickup Man.” March 29. Coronavirus.
Bill Withers, 81. He wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” March 30.
Earl Graves Sr., 85. He championed Black businesses as the founder of the first African American-owned magazine focusing on black entrepreneurs. April 6.
Herbert Stempel, 93. A fall guy and whistleblower of early television whose confession to deliberately losing on a 1950s quiz show helped drive a national scandal and join his name in history to winning contestant Charles Van Doren. April 7.
Linda Tripp, 70. Her secretly taped conversations with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky provided evidence of an affair with President Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment. April 8.
Mort Drucker, 91. The Mad magazine cartoonist who for decades lovingly spoofed politicians, celebrities and popular culture. April 9.
Brian Dennehy, 81. The burly actor who started in films as a macho heavy and later in his career won plaudits for his stage work in plays by William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller. April 15.
Jane Hull, 84. She was Arizona’s first woman elected governor and part of the “Fab Five” celebrated as the nation’s first all-female elected state executive branch leadership group. April 17.
Bobby Lee Verdugo, 69. One of the leaders of the 1968 East Los Angeles high school walkout to protest discrimination and dropout rates among Mexican American students, which triggered a movement across the American Southwest. May 1.
Don Shula, 90. He won the most games of any NFL coach and led the Miami Dolphins to the only perfect season in league history. May 4.
Roy Horn, 75. He was half of Siegfried & Roy, the duo whose extraordinary magic tricks astonished millions until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers. May 8. Coronavirus.
Little Richard, 87. He was one of the chief architects of rock ‘n’ roll whose piercing wail, pounding piano and towering pompadour irrevocably altered popular music while introducing Black R&B to white America. May 9. Bone cancer.
Jerry Stiller, 92. For decades, he teamed with wife Anne Meara in a beloved comedy duo and then reached new heights in his senior years as the high-strung Frank Costanza on the classic sitcom “Seinfeld” and the basement-dwelling father-in-law on “The King of Queens.” May 11.
Phyllis George, 70. The former Miss America who became a female sportscasting pioneer on CBS’ “The NFL Today” and served as the first lady of Kentucky. May 14.
Fred Willard, 86. The comedic actor whose improv style kept him relevant for more than 50 years in films like “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Best In Show” and “Anchorman.” May 15.
Ken Osmond, 76. On TV’s “Leave It to Beaver,” he played two-faced teenage scoundrel Eddie Haskell, a role so memorable it left him typecast and led to a second career as a police officer. May 18.
Jerry Sloan, 78. The Hall of Fame coach who was a fixture for decades in Utah and took the Jazz to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. May 22.
Eddie Sutton, 84. The Hall of Fame basketball coach who led three teams to the Final Four and was the first coach to take four schools to the NCAA Tournament. May 23.
William S. Sessions, 90. A former federal judge appointed by President Ronald Reagan to head the FBI and fired years later by President Bill Clinton. June 12.
Charles Webb, 81. A lifelong nonconformist whose debut novel “The Graduate” was a deadpan satire of his college education and wealthy background adapted into the classic film of the same name. June 16.
Joel Schumacher, 80. The eclectic and brazen filmmaker who shepherded the Brat Pack to the big screen in “St. Elmo’s Fire” and steering the Batman franchise into its most baroque territory in “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin.” June 22.
Milton Glaser, 91. The groundbreaking graphic designer who adorned Bob Dylan’s silhouette with psychedelic hair and summed up the feelings for his home state with “I (HEART) NY.” June 26.
Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., 82. He was the last of three one-time Ku Klux Klansmen convicted in a 1963 Alabama church bombing that killed four Black girls and was the deadliest single attack of the civil rights movement. June 26.
Carl Reiner, 98. The ingenious and versatile writer, actor and director who broke through as a “second banana” to Sid Caesar and rose to comedy’s front ranks as creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man.” June 29.