Skip to main content

Notebook Lifestyle

December deaths

Charley Pride (Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Obituaries

December deaths

A News of the Year addendum: Notable deaths in the final month of 2020

December

1 Walter E. Williams, 84 / An economics professor at George Mason University and guest host for Rush Limbaugh, he challenged liberal orthodoxies about the best way to improve the economic condition of black Americans.

2 Rafer Johnson, 86 / The first black captain of a U.S. Olympic team, the 1960 decathlon gold medalist became a friend of the Kennedy ­family and helped subdue Bobby ­Kennedy’s assassin in 1968.

4 David L. Lander, 73 / The actor who played Squiggy on the 1970s ­sitcom Laverne and Shirley.

7 Walter Hooper, 89 / A writer and the literary trustee for the C.S. Lewis estate, he edited and kept in print Lewis’ books for more than 50 years after the author’s death. 

7 Charles “Chuck” Yeager, 97 / A test pilot who broke the sound ­barrier, he lacked the college education to qualify as an astronaut but conquered frontiers of flight with a blue-collar work ethic.

12 John le Carré, 89 / Spy turned spy novelist, he created memorable characters such as George Smiley who navigated morally murky territory during the Cold War.

12 Charley Pride, 86 / Country music’s first black star, he played baseball in the Negro leagues before moving to Nashville, where he had 52 Top 10 hits, including “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone?”

12 Ann Reinking, 71 / A dancer and choreographer, she starred on Broadway in Chicago and Fosse and in the movie All That Jazz.

14 Jesse Taken Alive, 65 / A ­former leader of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, he advocated the return of human remains and artifacts taken from tribal graves.

16 Jean Graetz, 90 / A white ­supporter of the Montgomery bus boycott, along with her Lutheran pastor husband (who died in September), she helped organize child care and transportation for participants.

17 Michael Cusack, 64 / An athletic child with Down syndrome, his enthusiasm in a Chicago-area program for children with disabilities led the organizer to hold the first Special Olympics in 1968, at which 12-year-old Cusack won a gold medal.

17 Alfred Thomas Farrar, 99 / A former Tuskegee airman who died a few days before his 100th birthday, he was an engineer with the Federal ­Aviation Administration after WWII.

18 Roger Berlind, 90 / A producer of more than 100 plays who won 25 Tony Awards, he produced or co-produced Amadeus and revivals of Oklahoma; Kiss Me, Kate; and Hello Dolly. He quit his first career on Wall Street after his wife and three of four children died in an airline crash. 

20 Chad Stuart, 79 / Part of the 1960s pop/folk duo Chad & Jeremy, he crafted hits including “A Summer Song” and “Willow Weep for Me.”

21 K.T. Oslin, 78 / A singer and songwriter, she was the first woman to receive Song of the Year honors from the Country Music Association for her hit song “80’s Ladies,” which also earned a Grammy.

25 K.C. Jones, 88 / A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he won eight consecutive NBA championships as a player with the Boston Celtics in the 1950s and ’60s, then coached the team to two championships in the ’80s.

26 George Blake, 98 / A British intelligence officer who became a spy for the Soviet Union, he betrayed hundreds of Western agents before his arrest in 1961. He escaped from jail and fled to the Soviet Union, where he received a pension and honors.

26 Phil Niekro, 81 / A knuckleballer who pitched until he was 48 years old, he won 318 games, earning a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.