‘Chewbacca’ actor and comic Tim Conway, OKC bombing judge, NASCAR star die in 2019
A lauded writer who brought to light stories overshadowed by prejudice. An actress and singer who helped embody the manufactured innocence of the 1950s. A self-made billionaire who rose from a childhood of Depression-era poverty and twice ran for president. This year saw the deaths of people who shifted culture through prose, pragmatism and persistence. It also witnessed tragedy, in talent struck down in its prime.
In 2019, the political world lost a giant in U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. He was born the son of a sharecropper, became a lawyer, then an influential congressman and champion of civil rights. Cummings, who died in October, was chairman of one of the U.S. House committees that led an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump and was a formidable advocate for the poor in his Maryland district. Another influential political figure, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, died in July. Stevens was appointed to the high court as a Republican but became the leader of its liberal wing and a proponent of abortion rights and consumer protections.
Wealth, fame and a confident prescription for the nation's economic ills propelled H. Ross Perot 's 1992 campaign against President George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. He recorded the highest percentage for an independent or third-party candidate since 1912. He passed away in July. The death of Toni Morrison in August left a chasm in the publishing world, where she was a ``literary mother'' to countless writers. She helped elevate multiculturalism to the world stage and unearthed the lives of the unknown and unwanted. She became the first black woman to receive the Nobel Literature Prize for ``Beloved'' and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Among those in the scientific world who died in 2019 was Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first person to walk in space. Leonov died in October. Others include scientist Wallace Smith Broecker, who died in February and popularized the term ``global warming'' as he raised early alarms about climate change.
Doris Day, a top box-office draw and recording artist who died in May, stood for the 1950s ideal of innocence and G-rated love, a parallel world to her contemporary Marilyn Monroe. She received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004. Here is a roll call of some influential figures who passed away in 2019.
Eugene ``Mean Gene`` Okerlund, 76. His deadpan interviews of pro wrestling superstars like ``Macho Man`` Randy Savage, the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan made him a ringside fixture in his own right. Jan. 2.
Bob Einstein, 76. The veteran comedy writer and performer known for ``The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,`` ``Curb Your Enthusiasm`` and his spoof daredevil character Super Dave Osborne. Jan. 2.
Harold Brown, 91. As defense secretary in the Carter administration, he championed cutting-edge fighting technology during a tenure that included the failed rescue of hostages in Iran. Jan 4.
Jakiw Palij, 95. A former Nazi concentration camp guard who spent decades leading an unassuming life in New York City until his past was revealed. Jan. 9.
Carol Channing, 97. The ebullient musical comedy star who delighted American audiences in almost 5,000 performances as the scheming Dolly Levi in ``Hello, Dolly!`` on Broadway and beyond. Jan. 15.
John C. Bogle, 89. He simplified investing for the masses by launching the first index mutual fund and founded Vanguard Group. Jan. 16.
Lamia al-Gailani, 80. An Iraqi archaeologist who lent her expertise to rebuilding the National Museum's collection after it was looted in 2003. Jan. 18.
Antonio Mendez, 78. A former CIA technical operations officer who helped rescue six U.S. diplomats from Iran in 1980 and was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the film ``Argo.`` Jan. 19.
Harris Wofford, 92. A former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and longtime civil rights activist who helped persuade John F. Kennedy to make a crucial phone call to the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960 presidential campaign. Jan. 21.
Russell Baker, 93. The genial but sharp-witted writer who won Pulitzer Prizes for his humorous columns in The New York Times and a moving autobiography of his impoverished Baltimore childhood. He later hosted television's ``Masterpiece Theatre`` on PBS. Jan. 21.
Kim Bok-dong, 92. A South Korean woman who was forced as a girl into a brothel and sexually enslaved by the Japanese military during World War II, becoming a vocal leader at rallies that were held every Wednesday in Seoul for nearly 30 years. Jan. 28.
James Ingram, 66. The Grammy-winning singer who launched multiple hits on the R&B and pop charts and earned two Oscar nominations for his songwriting. Jan. 29.
Donald S. Smith, 94. He produced the controversial anti-abortion film ``The Silent Scream`` and, with help from Ronald Reagan's White House, distributed copies to every member of Congress and the Supreme Court. Jan. 30.
Anne Firor Scott, 97. A prize-winning historian and esteemed professor who upended the male-dominated field of Southern scholarship by pioneering the study of Southern women. Feb. 5.
Frank Robinson, 83. The Hall of Famer was the first blackmanagerinMajorLeague Baseball and the only player to win the MVP award in both leagues. Feb. 7.
John Dingell, 92. The former congressman was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history at 59 years and a master of legislative deal-making who was fiercely protective of Detroit's auto industry. Feb. 7.
Betty Ballantine, 99. She was half of a groundbreaking husband-and-wife publishing team that helped invent the modern paperback and vastly expand the market for science fiction and other genres through such blockbusters as ``The Hobbit`` and ``Fahrenheit 451.`` Feb. 12.
Lyndon LaRouche Jr., 96. The political extremist who ran for president in every election from 1976 to 2004, including a campaign waged from federal prison. Feb. 12.
Andrea Levy, 62. A prize-winning novelist who chronicled the hopes and horrors experienced by the post-World War II generation of Jamaican immigrants in Britain. Feb. 14.
Lee Radziwill, 85. She was the stylish jet-setter and socialite who found friends, lovers and other adventures worldwide while bonding and competing with her sister Jacqueline Kennedy. Feb. 15.
Armando M. Rodriguez, 97. A Mexican immigrant and World War II veteran who served in the administrations of four U.S. presidents while pressing for civil rights and education reforms. Feb. 17.
David Horowitz, 81. His ``Fight Back!`` syndicated program made him perhaps the best-known consumer reporter in the U.S. Feb. 21.
Peter Tork, 77. A talented singer-songwriter and instrumentalist whose musical skills were often overshadowed by his role as the goofy, lovable bass guitarist in the made-for-television rock band The Monkees. Feb. 21.
Stanley Donen, 94. A giant of the Hollywood musical who, through such classics as ``Singin' in the Rain`` and ``Funny Face,`` helped provide some of the most joyous sounds and images in movie history. Feb. 21.
Jerry Merryman, 86. He was one of the inventors of the handheld electronic calculator. Feb. 27.
Ed Nixon, 88. The youngest brother of President Richard Nixon who was a naval aviator and geologist and spent years promoting his brother's legacy. Feb. 27.
Andre Previn, 89. The pianist, composer and conductor whose broad reach took in the worlds of Hollywood, jazz and classical music. Feb. 28.
John Shafer, 94. The legendary Northern California vintner was part of a generation that helped elevate sleepy Napa Valley into the international wine powerhouse it is today. March 2.
Keith Flint, 49. The fiery frontman of British dance- electronic band The Prodigy. March 4.
Luke Perry, 52. He gained instant heartthrob status as wealthy rebel Dylan McKay on ``Beverly Hills, 90210.`` March 4.
Ralph Hall, 95. The former Texas congressman was the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House and a man who claimed to have once sold cigarettes and Coca-Cola to the bank-robbing duo of Bonnie and Clyde in Dallas. March 7.
Carmine ``the Snake`` Persico, 85. The longtime boss of the infamous Colombo crime family. March 7.
Birch Bayh, 91. A former U.S. senator who championed the federal law banning discrimination against women in college admissions and sports. March 14.
Jerrie Cobb, 88. America's first female astronaut candidate, the pilot pushed for equality in space but never reached its heights. March 18.
Ken Gibson, 86. He became the first black mayor of a major Northeast city when he ascended to power in riot-torn Newark, New Jersey, about five decades ago. March 29.
Billy Adams, 79. A Rockabilly Hall of Famer who wrote and recorded the rockabilly staple ``Rock, Pretty Mama.`` March 30.
Sydney Brenner, 92. A Nobel Prize-winning biologist who helped decipher the genetic code and whose research on a roundworm sparked a new field of human disease research. April 5.
Ernest F. ``Fritz`` Hollings, 97. The silver-haired Democrat who helped shepherd South Carolina through desegregation as governor and went on to serve six terms in the U.S. Senate. April 6.
Marilynn Smith, 89. One of the 13 founders of the LPGA Tour whose 21 victories, two majors and endless support of her tour led to her induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame. April 9.
Richard ``Dick`` Cole, 103. The last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders who carried out the daring U.S. attack on Japan duringWorldWarII. April 9.
Charles Van Doren, 93. The dashing young academic whose meteoric rise and fall as a corrupt game show contestant in the 1950s inspired the movie ``Quiz Show`` and served as a cautionary tale about the staged competitions of early television. April 9.
Georgia Engel, 70. She played the charmingly innocent, small-voiced Georgette on ``The Mary Tyler Moore Show`` and amassed a string of other TV and stage credits. April 12.
Owen Garriott, 88. A former astronaut who flew on America's first space station, Skylab, and whose son followed him into orbit. April 15.
John Havlicek, 79. The Boston Celtics great whose steal of Hal Greer's inbounds pass in the final seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference final against the Philadelphia 76ers remains one of the most famous plays in NBA history. April 25.
Damon J. Keith, 96. A grandson of slaves and figure in the Civil Rights Movement who as a federal judge was sued by President Richard Nixon over a ruling against warrantless wiretaps. April 28.
Richard Lugar, 87. A former U.S. senator and foreign policy sage known for leading efforts to help the former Soviet states dismantle and secure much of their nuclear arsenal but whose reputation for working with Democrats cost him his final campaign. April 28.
John Singleton, 51. A
director who made one of Hollywood's most memorable debuts with the Oscar- nominated ``Boyz N the Hood`` and continued over the following decades to probe the lives of black communities in his native Los Angeles and beyond. April 29.
Ellen Tauscher, 67. A trailblazer for women in the world of finance who served in Congress for more than a decade before joining the Obama administration. April 29.
Peter Mayhew, 74. The towering actor who donned a huge, furry costume to give life to the rugged- and-beloved character of Chewbacca in the original ``Star Wars`` trilogy and two other films. April 30.
John Lukacs, 95. The Hungarian-born historian and iconoclast who brooded over the future of Western civilization, wrote a best- selling tribute to Winston Churchill, and produced a substantial and often despairing body of writings on the politics and culture of Europe and the United States. May 6.
Peggy Lipton, 72. A star of the groundbreaking late 1960s TV show ``The Mod Squad`` and the 1990s show ``Twin Peaks.`` May 11.
Leonard Bailey, 76. The doctor who in 1984 transplanted a baboon heart into a tiny newborn dubbed ``Baby Fae`` in a pioneering operation that sparked both worldwide acclaim and condemnation. May 12.
Tim Conway, 85. The impish second banana to Carol Burnett who won four Emmy Awards on her TV variety show, starred in ``McHale's Navy`` and later voiced the role of Barnacle Boy for ``Spongebob Squarepants.`` May 14.
Niki Lauda, 70. A Formula One great who won two of his world titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry. May 20.
Murray Gell-Mann, 89. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist who brought order to the universe by helping discover and classify subatomic particles. May 24.
Richard Matsch, 88. A federal judge who ruled his courtroom with a firm gavel and a short temper and gained national respect in the 1990s for his handling of the Oklahoma City bombing trials. May 26.
Bill Buckner, 69. A star hitter who made one of the biggest blunders in baseball history when he let Mookie Wilson's trickler roll through his legs in the 1986 World Series. May 27.
Thad Cochran, 81. A former U.S. senator who served 45 years in Washington and used seniority to steer billions of dollars to his home state of Mississippi. May 30.
Patricia Bath , 76. A pioneering ophthalmologist who became the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent after she invented a more precise treatment of cataracts. May 30.
Frank Lucas, 88. The former Harlem drug kingpin whose life and lore inspired the 2007 film ``American Gangster.`` May 30.
Leah Chase, 96. A New Orleans chef and civil rights icon who created the city's first white-tablecloth restaurant for black patrons, broke the city's segregation laws by seating white and black customers, and introduced countless tourists to Southern Louisiana Creole cooking. June 1.
Lew Klein, 91. A broadcast pioneer who helped create
``American Bandstand`` and launched the careers of Dick Clark and Bob Saget. June 12.
Pat Bowlen, 75. The Denver Broncos owner who transformed the team from also-rans into NFL champions and helped the league usher in billion-dollar television deals. June 13.
Charles Reich, 91. The author and Ivy League academic whose ``The Greening of America`` blessed the counterculture of the 1960s and became a million- selling manifesto for a new and euphoric way of life. June 15.
Gloria Vanderbilt, 95. The intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the ``poor little rich girl`` of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages and reigned during the 1970s and '80s as a designer jeans pioneer. June 17.
Jim Taricani, 69. An award- winning TV reporter who exposedcorruptionandserved a federal sentence for refusing to disclose a source. June 21. Beth Chapman, 51. The wife and co-star of ``Dog the Bounty Hunter`` reality TV star Duane ``Dog`` Chapman. June 26.
Tyler Skaggs, 27. The left- handed pitcher who was a regular in the Los Angeles Angels' starting rotation since late 2016 and struggled with injuries repeatedly in that time. July 1.
Lee Iacocca, 94. The auto executive and master pitchman who put the Mustang in Ford's lineup in the 1960s and became a corporate folk hero when he resurrected Chrysler 20 years later. July 2.
Eva Kor, 85. A Holocaust survivor who championed forgiveness even for those who carried out the Holocaust atrocities. July 4.
Martin Charnin, 84. He made his Broadway debut playing a Jet in the original ``West Side Story`` and went on to become a Broadway director and a lyricist who won a Tony Award for the score of the eternal hit ``Annie.`` July 6.
Rosie Ruiz, 66. The Boston Marathon course-cutter who was stripped of her victory in the 1980 race and went on to become an enduring symbol of cheating in sports. July 8.
H. Ross Perot, 89. The colorful, self-made Texas billionaire who rose from delivering newspapers as a boy to building his own information technology company and twice mounted outsider campaigns for president. July 9.
Rip Torn, 88. The free-spirited Texan who overcame his quirky name to become a distinguished actor in television, theater and movies, such as ``Men in Black,`` and win an Emmy in his 60s for ``The Larry Sanders Show.`` July 9.
Johnny Kitagawa, 87. Better known as Johnny-san, he was a kingpin of Japan's entertainment industry for more than half a century who produced famous boy bands including Arashi, Tokio and SMAP. July 9.
Jim Bouton, 80. The former New York Yankees pitcher who shocked and angered the conservative baseball world with the tell-all book ``Ball Four.`` July 10.
Jerry Lawson, 75. For four decades, he was the lead singer of the eclectic cult favorite a cappella group the Persuasions. July 10.
Pernell Whitaker, 55. An Olympic gold medalist and four-division boxing champion who was regarded as one of the greatest defensive fighters ever. July 14.
L. Bruce Laingen, 96. The top American diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when it was overrun by Iranian protesters in 1979 and one of
52 Americans held hostage for more than a year. July 15.
Edith Irby Jones, 91. The first black student to enroll at an all-white medical school in the South and later the first female president of the National Medical Association. July 15.
John Paul Stevens, 99. The bow-tied, independent- thinking, Republican- nominated justice who unexpectedly emerged as the Supreme Court's leading liberal. July 16.
Johnny Clegg, 66. A South African musician who performed in defiance of racial barriers imposed under the country's apartheid system decades ago and celebrated its new democracy under Nelson Mandela. July 16.
Elijah ``Pumpsie`` Green, 85. The former Boston Red Sox infielder was the first black player on the last major league team to field one. July 17.
Rutger Hauer, 75. A Dutch film actor who specialized in menacing roles, including a memorable turn as a murderous android in ``Blade Runner`` opposite Harrison Ford. July 19.
Paul Krassner, 87. The publisher, author and radical political activist on the front lines of 1960s counterculture who helped tie together his loose-knit prankster group by naming them the Yippies. July 21.
Robert M. Morgenthau, 99. A former Manhattan district attorney who spent more than three decades jailing criminals from mob kingpins and drug- dealing killers to a tax-dodging Harvard dean. July 21.
Li Peng, 90. A former hard- line Chinese premier best known for announcing martial law during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests that ended with a bloody crackdown by troops. July 22.
Art Neville, 81. A member of one of New Orleans' storied musical families, the Neville Brothers, and a founding member of the groundbreaking funk band The Meters. July 22.
Chris Kraft, 95. The founder of NASA's mission control. July 22.
Mike Moulin, 70. A former Los Angeles police lieutenant who came under fire for failing to quell the first outbreak of rioting after the Rodney King beating verdict. July 30.
Harold Prince, 91. A Broadway director and producer who pushed the boundaries of musical theater with such groundbreaking shows as ``The Phantom of the Opera,`` ``Cabaret,`` ``Company`` and ``Sweeney Todd`` and won a staggering 21 Tony Awards. July 31.
D.A. Pennebaker, 94. The Oscar-winning documentary maker whose historic contributions to American culture and politics included immortalizing a young Bob Dylan in ``Don't Look Back`` and capturing the spin behind Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign in ``The War Room.`` Aug. 1.
Henri Belolo, 82. He co-founded the Village People and co-wrote their classic hits ``YMCA,`` ``Macho Man`` and ``In the Navy.`` Aug. 3.
Toni Morrison, 88. A pioneer and reigning giant of modern literature whose imaginative power in ``Beloved,`` ``Song of Solomon`` and other works transformed American letters by dramatizing the pursuit of freedom within the boundaries of race. Aug. 5.
Peter Fonda, 79. The actor was the son of a Hollywood legend who became a movie star in his own right after both writing and starring in the counterculture classic ``Easy Rider.`` Aug. 16.
Cedric Benson, 36. A former NFL running back who was one of the most prolific rushers in NCAA and University of Texas history. Aug. 17.
Kathleen Blanco, 76. She became Louisiana's first female elected governor only to see her political career derailed by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Aug. 18.
David H. Koch, 79. A billionaire industrialist who, with his older brother Charles, was both celebrated and demonized for transforming American politics by pouring their riches into conservative causes. Aug. 23.
Baxter Leach, 79. A prominent member of the Memphis, Tennessee, sanitation workers union whose historic strike drew the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the city where he was assassinated. Aug. 27.
Jim Leavelle, 99. The longtime Dallas lawman who was captured in one of history's most iconic photographs escorting President John F. Kennedy's assassin as he was fatally shot. Aug. 29.
T. Boone Pickens, 91. A brash and quotable oil tycoon who grew even wealthier through corporate takeover attempts. Sept. 11.
Eddie Money, 70. The rock star known for such hits as ``Two Tickets to Paradise`` and ``Take Me Home Tonight.`` Sept. 13.
Cokie Roberts, 75. The daughter of politicians and a pioneering journalist who chronicled Washington from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump for NPR and ABC News. Sept. 17.
David A. Jones Sr., 88. He invested $1,000 to start a nursing home company that eventually became the $37 billion health insurance giant Humana Inc. Sept. 18.
Barron Hilton, 91. A hotel magnate who expanded his father's chain and became a founding owner in the American Football League. Sept. 19.
Joseph Wilson, 69. The former ambassador who set off a political firestorm by disputing U.S. intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion. Sept. 27.
Samuel Mayerson, 97. The prosecutor who took newspaper heiress Patty Hearst to court for shooting up a Southern California sporting goods store in 1974 and then successfully argued for probation, not prison, for the kidnapping victim-turned terrorist. Sept. 30.
Rip Taylor, 88. The madcap, mustached comedian with a fondness for confetti-throwing who became a television game show mainstay in the 1970s. Oct. 6.
Alexei Leonov, 85. The legendary Soviet cosmonaut who became the first person to walk in space. Oct. 11.
Scotty Bowers, 96. A self-described Hollywood "fixer" whose memoir offered sensational accounts of the sex lives of such celebrities as Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Oct. 13.
Elijah E. Cummings, 68. A sharecropper's son who rose to become a civil rights champion and the chairman of one of the U.S. House committees leading an impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Oct. 17.
Marieke Vervoort, 40. A Paralympian who won gold and silver medals in 2012 at the London Paralympics in wheelchair racing and two more medals in Rio de Janeiro. Oct. 22.
Kathryn Johnson, 93. A trailblazing reporter for The Associated Press whose intrepid coverage of the civil rights movement and other major stories led to a string of legendary scoops. Oct. 23.
John Conyers, 90. The former congressman was one of the longest-serving members of Congress whose resolutely liberal stance on civil rights made him a political institution in Washington and back home in Detroit despite several scandals. Oct. 27.
John Walker, 82. An Arkansas lawmaker and civil rights attorney who represented black students in a long-running court fight over the desegregation of Little Rock- area schools. Oct. 28.
John Witherspoon, 77. An actor-comedian who memorably played Ice Cube's father in the ``Friday`` films. Oct. 29.
Gert Boyle, 95. The colorful chairwoman of Oregon-based Columbia Sportswear Co. who starred in ads proclaiming her ``One Tough Mother.`` Nov. 3.
Werner Gustav Doehner, 90. He was the last remaining survivor of the Hindenburg disaster, who suffered severe burns to his face, arms and legs before his mother managed to toss him and his brother from the burning airship. Nov. 8.
Cathy Long, 95. A Louisiana Democrat who won her husband's U.S. House seat after his sudden death in 1985 and served one term. Nov. 23.
William Doyle Ruckelshaus, 87. He famously quit his job in the Justice Department rather than carry out President Richard Nixon's order to fire the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. Nov. 27.
Allan Gerson, 74. A lawyer who pursued Nazi war criminals and pioneered the practice of suing foreign governments in U.S. courts for complicity to terrorism. Dec. 1.
Juice WRLD, 21. A rapper who launched his career on SoundCloud before becoming a streaming juggernaut and rose to the top of the charts with the Sting-sampled hit ``Lucid Dreams.'' Dec. 8.
Rene Auberjonois, 79. A prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows ``Benson'' and ``Star Trek: Deep Space Nine'' and his part in the 1970 film ``M.A.S.H.'' playing Father Mulcahy. Dec. 8.
Caroll Spinney, 85. He gave Big Bird his warmth and Oscar the Grouch his growl for nearly 50 years on ``Sesame Street.'' Dec. 8.
Paul Volcker, 92. The former Federal Reserve chairman who in the early 1980s raised interest rates to historic highs and triggered a recession as the price of quashing double-digit inflation. Dec. 8.
Pete Frates, 34. A former college baseball player whose battle with Lou Gehrig's disease helped inspire the ALS ice bucket challenge that has raised more than $200 million worldwide. Dec. 9.
Marie Fredriksson, 61. The female half of the Swedish pop duo Roxette that achieve international success in the late 1980s and 1990s. Dec. 9.
Kim Woochoong, 82. The disgraced founder of the now- collapsed Daewoo business group whose rise and fall symbolized South Korea's turbulent rapid economic growth in the 1970s. Dec. 9.
Danny Aiello, 86. The blue-collar character actor whose long career playing tough guys included roles in ``Fort Apache, the Bronx,'' ``Moonstruck`` and ``Once Upon a Time in America'' and his Oscar-nominated performance as a pizza man in Spike Lee's ``Do the Right Thing.'' Dec. 12.
Robert Glenn ``Junior'' Johnson, 88. The moonshine runner turned NASCAR driver who won 50 races as a driver and 132 as an owner and was part of the inaugural class inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010. Dec. 20.
Jerry Herman, 88. The Tony Award-winning composer who wrote the cheerful, good-natured music and lyrics for such classic shows as ``Mame,`` ``Hello, Dolly!`` and ``La Cage aux Folles.`` Dec. 26.