Gone, But Not Forgotten

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January 2009

“Prince” Joe Henry, 78, a Negro League all-star baseball player with Memphis Red Sox, Indianapolis Clowns and Detroit Stars died on Jan. 2.


Sam “Bluzman” Taylor, 74, a blues singer-songwriter/guitarist, died Jan. 5 from complications of heart disease.

On Jan. 4, Giselle Salandy, 21, Trinidad and Tobago’s unbeaten female boxer and winner of eight championship belts, was killed in a car accident.

Claude A. Jeter, 94, a gospel singer with a lilting falsetto who lent his voice to the Swan Silvertones but refused to crossover to secular music, died on Jan. 6.

For four straight years, The Mighty Duke, born Kelvin Pope, won the National Calypso Monarch title. On Jan. 14, at 77, the voice of the Trinidad and Tobago islander was stilled by complications related to myelofibrosis.

Leo Rwabwogo, 59, a boxer who won two Olympic medals in 1968 and 1972, died on Jan. 14.

Leonard Gaskin, died at 88 on Jan. 24. The bassist, whose love affair with jazz began in the 1940s, was still teaching music in the 21st century.


Mamadou Dia, Senegal’s first prime minister who was forced to resign by President Léopold Senghor for allegedly plotting a coup, died at 98, on Jan. 25.

When very few blacks played professional basketball, John Isaacs starred with the all-black New York Renaissance. On Jan. 26, at 93, he died of a stroke.


On Jan. 29, multi-talented alto saxophonist Hank Crawford died of a stroke at 74. He was also a songwriter and arranger.

February 2009

At 35, Warren Kimbro was a Black Panther when he killed an alleged police informant. After serving time, he attended Harvard University, and since 1983 has helped provide re-entry services for ex-offenders. Kimbro, 74, died on Feb. 3.


Mel Kaufman, 50, a Washington Redskins linebacker who appeared three Super Bowls, died on Feb. 9.

Wilbert Tatum, 76, the bold ex-publisher and editor of the New York Amsterdam News died of multiple organ failure while on vacation in Croatia. Under Tatum, the New York Times noted that the Amsterdam News, in addition to covering Harlem’s social life, sports and politics, focused on “issues of police brutality, redlining and other manifestations of discrimination.”


On Feb. 26, Norm Van Lier, 61, a three-time all-star basketball guard, who played briefly with the Cincinnati Royals, then spent most of his career with the Chicago Bulls, died in his home.

March 2009

João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, 70, president of Guinea-Bissau, was assassinated on March 2, by rebel members of his country’s military.


On March 4, John Cephas, 78, a Piedmont acoustic blues musician who played with Phil Wiggins in Cephas & Wiggins, died of natural causes.

On March 5, Oscar Kamau King’ara, 38, and John Paul Oulu, Kenyan human rights activists, were shot to death by unknown assailants, in central Nairobi.


Dave Pureifory, 59, a former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle, died of prostate cancer on March 5.

On March 8, Willie King, 65, a much acclaimed Mississippi blues musician and guitarist who preferred to play his ”struggling blues” in a local spot, Betties bar, died of a heart attack.


On March 24, Uriel Jones, 74, Motown recording session drummer and a member of the grooving house studio band, the Funk Brothers, died as the result of a heart attack.

Marquis Cooper, 26, a linebacker for the Oakland Raiders, presumed drowned on March 7.


Corey Smith, 29, an NFL free-agent defensive lineman, presumed drowned on March 7.

April 2009

Ken Anderson, 33, a former defensive tackle with the Chicago Bears, suffered a fatal heart attack on March 3.


On April 2, David "Pop" Winans Sr., 74, the Grammy-nominated patriarch of the award-winning gospel music family, and father of BeBe and CeCe Winans, died of a heart attack.

Randy Cain, 63, a founding member of The Delfonics, and the group Blue Magic, died on April 9.


A car accident took the life of Rev. Timothy Wright, 61, a Grammy-nominated American gospel singer and composer, on April 24. He was nominated for Grammy Awards in 1994 for "Come Thou Almighty King," as best traditional soul gospel album, and in 1999 for "Been There Done That."

Greg Page, 50, the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion from 1984 to 1985, died on April 27 of complications from a boxing-related brain injury. His professional boxing record was 58-17-1 with 48 knockouts.


Frankie Manning, 94, a celebrated jazz dancer who choreographed the Lindy Hop and popularized it worldwide, died on April 27.

May 2009

On May 6, Viola Wills, 69, who sang the dance hit “Gonna Get Along Without You,” and covers of “Both Sides Now” and “If You Could Read My Mind,” died of cancer.


Eugene Smith, 88, baritone (1921-04-22)gospel singer and composer, died on May 9.

On May 15, Wayman Lawrence Tisdale, 44, professional basketball player, smooth jazz guitarist and a three-time University of Oklahoma All-American, died of cancer.


Carole Cole, 64, adopted daughter of Nat King Cole and sister of singer Natalie Cole, died of cancer on May 19. She was an actor, music producer and CEO of King Cole Productions.

Gaafar Muhammad an-Nimeiry, 79, was president of Sudan from 1969 to 1985 and presided over a re-ignition of the civil war in the non-Muslim south. He died on May 30.


June 2009

The original iron man of basketball, Randolph "Randy" Smith, 60, set the then National Basketball Association record for consecutive games played at 906 games between 1972-1982. Smith died on June 4.


Huey Long, 105, died on June 10. The guitarist and singer was the last living member of the quartet, the Ink Spots, which sang romantic ballads.

Lt. Roger "Bill" Terry, 87, was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. In 1945, he was dishonorably discharged for trying to integrate an officers' club. Fifty years later, President George W. Bush pardoned Terry and restored his former rank. He died on June 11, 2009.


Jackie Washington, 89, died on June 27, 2009. He was a Canadian blues, jazz and folk singer/guitarist, with a repertoire of more than 1,300 songs, and was also Canada’s first black disk jockey.

Fayette Regina Pinkney, 61, an original member of musical group, The Three Degrees, died on June 27.


July 2009

Andree Layton Roaf, 68, was the first African-American woman to serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court, and was also a member of the Arkansas Court of Appeals. She died on July 1.


Vernon Forrest, 38, a world champion welterweight and light middleweight boxer, was shot to death on July 25, after he resisted an attempted robbery.

On July 27, George Allen Russell, 86, a jazz composer, theorist and pianist, died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. His 1953 book, The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, his theory of jazz improvisation influenced musicians like John Coltrane and Miles Davis.


August 2009

Lawyer, civil rights activist and former chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors, Margaret Bush Wilson, died at 90, on Aug. 11, of multiple organ failure. She also managed a law firm in St. Louis for more than 40 years.


Free and avant-garde jazz drummer Rashied Ali, 74, who was born Robert Patterson, and often played with saxophonist John Coltrane, died on Aug. 12, of a heart attack.

The first black official in the National Football League, Burl Abron Toler Sr., died on Aug. 16. He officiated NFL games for 24 years and Super Bowl XIV in 1980. He was usually a field judge or head linesman.


Tap dancer Ernest “Brownie” Brown, 93, was the surviving member of the Original Copasetics, and died in Chicago on Aug. 21.

September 2009

John Milton Stephens, 43, a running back for the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, died on Sept. 1, in a one-car accident.


Producer, DJ and turntablist, Anthony Williams, 37, also known as Roc Raida or Grandmaster Roc Raida, and a member of The X-Ecutioner DJ group, died on Sept. 19.

October 2009

When President-elect Barack Obama wanted a half-smoke, a smoked sausage sandwich, he went to Ben’s Chili Bowl. Ben Ali, 82, who founded the small restaurant in Washington, D,C,, in 1958, died on Oct. 7.


Musician Abu Talib, 70, also known as Fred Leroy Robinson, was a singer, blues guitarist and harmonica player. He died of cancer on Oct. 8.

On Oct. 13, Cullen Bryant, 58, a 13-year veteran of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks, died. The running back and kick return specialist. But Cullen’s lasting fame was his filing an antitrust lawsuit that challenged the NFL’s free agency regulations.


Jasper Tyrone Howard, 20, a cornerback and team captain for the University of Connecticut football team, was stabbed to death on Oct. 18, several hours after the Huskies’ victory over University of Louisville.

November 2009

John Allen Muhammad, 48, was executed by lethal injection on Nov. 10, for his part in the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C. area. Muhammad and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, killed 10 people.


The second-oldest surviving Negro League baseball player, Wallace “Bucky” Williams, died at 102 on Nov. 16. Williams had played third base and shortstop for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays.

December 2009

On Dec. 1, jazz tenor saxophonist, Donald Washington Sr., 79, died of lung cancer.


See our gallery of those we loved and lost in 2009.