What an exciting and traumatic year 2008 has been. A historic presidential campaign that ended with the election of an African-American to the U.S. presidency. An economic meltdown not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
We also lost those who have made a significant impact to the academy as well as American culture.
Diverse takes a look at those who died this year and recalls the contributions they made to the national and global community:
Johnnie Carr: Carr joined childhood friend Rosa Parks in the historic Montgomery bus boycott and succeeded the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association in 1967. It was the newly formed association that led the boycott of city buses in the Alabama capital. She was 97.
Dr. Michael DeBakey: DeBakey was chancellor emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and a pioneering heart surgeon who is considered the father of modern cardiovascular surgery. DeBakey died in July at age 99.
Dr. Murry DePillars: Born in Chicago in 1938, DePillars was an artist and educator who served as dean of the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University from 1976 until his retirement in 1995. Under his leadership, the School of the Arts grew to become one of the largest and well-respected art schools in the United States.
Dith Pran: A New York Times photojournalist and survivor of the Khmer Rouge labor camps in Cambodia, Dith became world-famous with the release of the Academy Award-winning film “The Killing Fields,” which was based on his life, the Cambodian civil war and Dith’s friendship with Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg. He was 65.
Dr. Robert Cook Edwards: The former Clemson University president is credited for his leadership and calls for peace and order during a contentious integration battle in 1963 in which Harvey B. Gantt, a Black student, successfully enrolled in the then all-White Clemson College. He was 94.
Dr. Robert Goheen: The former president of Princeton University, an assistant classics professor chosen to lead the university at the age of 37, hired Princeton’s first Black full professor and Black administrator. The former U.S. ambassador to India died at 88.
Don Haskins: The longtime University of Texas at El Paso coach, who is credited with helping break color barriers in U.S. college sports in 1966 when he used five Black starters to win a national basketball title for Texas Western University, died at 78.
Isaac Hayes: Best known for the Oscar- winning “Theme from ‘Shaft,’” Hayes maintained a strong commitment to education, participated in several national and international literacy programs and spearheaded the development of The Isaac Hayes Foundation in 1993, whose mission is to enhance educational opportunities for underprivileged youth. He was 65.
Zelma Henderson: The last surviving plaintiff in Topeka’s Brown v. Board of Education case, which led to the historic 1954 Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in public schools, died at the age of 88.
Dr. Jay Katz: A leader in reproductive technology law and ethics, the Yale Law School professor served on a national panel that studied the Tuskegee syphilis experiment on Black men. Katz was 86.
Bernie Mac: Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough, the comedian best known for the award-winning television show “The Bernie Mac Show” and popular Kings of Comedy tour, died at the age of 50. A strong advocate of literacy and education, via public service announcements, Mac addressed library funding cuts and urged citizens to support their local libraries.
Miriam Makeba: The South African singer known to fans worldwide as “Mama Africa,” who became an international symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle, died at the age of 76. She lived in exile for 31 years in Belgium, France, Guinea in West Africa and the United States before having an emotional homecoming in Johannesburg in 1990, when many long-exiled South Africans returned under reforms instituted by then-President F.W. de Klerk.
Nancy Hicks Maynard: Maynard, a strong advocate of newsroom diversity, who, with her husband Robert, was co-founder of The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and former co-publisher of The Oakland Tribune. She was 61.
Dr. Charles Moskos: The retired Northwestern University professor, an expert on the attitudes of servicemen and women and who helped formulate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gays in the military, died at the age of 74.
Odetta: Born Odetta Holmes, the folk singer’s songs are described as the soundtrack to the civil rights movement. With her booming, classically trained voice and spare guitar, Odetta gave life to the songs by workingmen and slaves, farmers and miners, housewives and washerwomen, Blacks and Whites. In 1999, she was honored with a National Medal of the Arts. “I’m not a real folksinger,” she told The Washington Post in 1983. “I don’t mind people calling me that, but I’m a musical historian. I’m a city kid who has admired an area and who got into it. I’ve been fortunate. With folk music, I can do my teaching and preaching, my propagandizing.”
Warren Murray Robbins: When Robbins founded the Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., in 1964, he desired that it be an agent of understanding and education during a time of racial, social, and political unrest. Robbins also viewed the museum as a teaching tool and allocated resources to transporting students to the institution. He was 85.
Dr. Leonard H.O. Spearman, Sr.: Spearman, the sixth president of Texas Southern University, serving between 1980 and 1986, led initiatives to accredit the university’s schools of law and pharmacy and the MBA program. President Ronald Reagan appointed Spearman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda and President George Bush appointed him to the post in the Kingdom of Lesotho. He established American schools in both countries. He was appointed executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs in 2001.
Stephanie Tubbs Jones: The U.S. House Rep. Tubbs Jones, the first Black woman to represent Ohio in Congress, died at age 58. She chaired the ethics committee in the House and was the first Black woman to serve on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Gene Upshaw: Upshaw had a Hall of Fame career as a guard for the Oakland Raiders, which won two of three Super Bowls during his tenure. But his work as executive director of the NFL Players Association over a quartercentury was even more important. In 1987, Upshaw led the second players’ strike in five years, a short walkout that led to the embarrassing spectacle of games with replacement players. A new, seven-year contract was finally worked out in 1993, bringing in a new age of free agency and salary caps. He was 63.
Dr. Donda West: As a professor and chair of the Department of English, Communications, Media Arts and Theatre, Donda West was a fixture at Chicago State University for 24 years. Although she left academia in 2004 to work with her rapper son Kanye West, she maintained her devotion to education and creativity by creating the “Kanye West Fresh to Death Scholarship” for youth interested in studying the performing arts, English and writing. She was 58. Dana Forde contributed to this report, which also contains information from The Associated Press.
Dana Forde contributed to this report, which also contains information from The Associated Press.
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