Gone But Not Forgotten: National & Local Black Leaders Lost in 2012

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN 2012SACRAMENTO – Some uplifted our spirits with a powerful prayer, others stirred our souls through song. The past year has seen the loss of a number of African American icons, who made an impact locally, nationally and internationally. As the year ends, we take a minute to reflect and acknowledge a few of those who went on to glory in 2012.

Robert Carter, a lawyer who was an integral member of the team led by Thurgood Marshall that turned to the courts to battle segregation, died on January 3 after suffering a stroke. He was 94.

George Livingston, the first elected Black mayor of Richmond, Calif. died on January 7 after a long battle with diabetes. Livingston was 78. Livingston began his career in Richmond politics in 1965, serving three terms as member of the Richmond City Council.

Myrtle Davis, retired North Carolina educator and mother of California Assemblyman mike Davis died on January 18. Assemblyman Davis’ father Lawrence Kenneth Davis died just a month before.

Singer Etta James died on January 20 after a two-year battle with leukemia. Ms. James was 73. A master at soul, blues and jazz, Ms. James will be remembered for such songs as “At Last,” “All I Could Do Was Cry” and “I’d Rather Go Blind.

He was the conductor for the “hippest trip in America.” Soul Train’s iconic creator and original host Don Cornelius committed apparent suicide by gunshot on February 1. Cornelius was the epitome of smooth, from his voice to his signature ascots. Soul Train introduced many Black music acts to the American public.

Singer David Peaston, who had a string of R&B hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, also died on February 1 of complications from diabetes. Peaston was 54.

The grand diva Whitney Houston drowned in a Los Angeles hotel room on February 11. While marred by drug addiction, Ms. Houston, 48, enjoyed
a prolific career that included music and film credits. She will be remembered for such classic songs as “I Will Always Love You,” “I’m Every Woman” and “Greatest Love of All.” She also starred in movies such “Waiting to Exhale,” “The Preacher’s Wife,” “The Bodyguard,” and her last, the remake of “Sparkle.”

Shelly Nathan Bailey, a retired civil engineer, died February 16, of complications of diabetes and cancer at Kaiser’s South Sacramento Hospital. He was 84. In 1968, the American Society of Civil Engineers named him California’s Outstanding Engineer for Community Activities.

He was also recognized in the 1977-78 edition of Who’s Who in Black America. The Sacramento Observer honored him in 2008 for using his profession to improve his community.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, the first Black congressional member from New Jersey, died on March 6 at age 77.

James T. Ellis, lead singer of The Trampps died on March 8, at age 74. The group was famous for their 1970s hit, “Disco Inferno.”

John Payton, the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., died March 22 after a brief
illness. He was 65.

The Rev. Al Sharpton’s mother, Ada Essie Sharpton, also died on March 22 in Alabama after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Renown sculptor Elizabeth Catlett died on April 2. She was 96. She was known for her commitment to winning greater rights for Blacks, women and workers in the United States and her adopted country of Mexico.

Long time Sacramento resident Margaret Lytle Pearson, 81, died on April 7 from complications following orthopedic surgery. Mrs. Pearson was a former math teacher who prided herself with helping young people make it into college. One of her own children, Alice Lytle is a retired Sacramento Family Court judge.

LeRoy Walker, the first African American to lead the U.S. Olympic Committee and the first Black man to coach an American Olympic team, died on April 23. He was 93. Walker led the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1992 to 1996.

The queen of disco music, Donna Summers died of lung cancer on May 17. Ms. Summers was 63. The five-time Grammy Award winner had hits with songs like “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girl” and the women’s empowerment tune, “She Works Hard For the Money.” She will be inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Bishop Hamel Hartford Brookins, a veteran bishop with the African Methodist Episcopal church died May 22. The Los Angeles based clergyman was 86.

Retired Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown died on May 22 at age 85. Brown was the first African American to graduate from the US Naval Academy.

New York broadcasting pioneer Hal Jackson died on May 23 at the age of 96. Jackson was the first minority inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame and the first of five African Americans inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.

Velma Stokley-Flournoy, the co-founder of the Miss Black Sacramento Scholarship Pageant died on May 30, after a long illness. She was 87. Mrs. Stokley-Flournoy also encouraged young people to express their various talents by leading the local NAACP’s ACT-SO program for many years.

Ray Parr, a local outspoken community champion died on May 8. Parr, who fought to give Oak Park residents a voice, was 84. A veteran, his ashes are interned at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.

Herb Reed, the last surviving member of The Platters singing group, died on June 4, Reed, 83, gave fans such songs as “The Great Pretender” and “Only You.”

The brutal beating of Rodney King at the hands of Los Angeles police officers, sparked racial tension and led to riots when those officers were acquitted. King, who asked the world, “Can’t we all just get along,” drowned in his home pool on June 17.

Yvonne B. Miller, the first African American woman elected to Virginia’s state legislature, died on July 3. Ms. Miller, a champion for the state’s poor and minorities, was 78.

Rev. Willie D. Hull, who taught Sunday school at Sacramento’s New Pleasant Grove Baptist Church died on July 18. Called an “awesome man of God,” Rev. Hull was 99.

Actor Sherman Hemsley died on July 24. Hemsely was known widely for his portrayal of George Jefferson, a Black dry cleaner who in the 1970s makes it to the “big leagues”— a deluxe apartment in the sky of New York’s Upper East Side. Hemsley later starred as a deacon on the television series “Amen.”

Pulitzer Prize-winner William Raspberry, who served 40 years as a columnist for The Washington Post died July 17 at his home in Washington, D.C. of prostate cancer. He was 76.

Veteran stage and screen actor Al Freeman, Jr. died on August 9 at age 78. Freeman is widely known for his portrayal of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad in the film “Malcolm X,” but his career spanned four decades. Freeman also starred on the soap opera “One Life to Live” in the 1970s, becoming the first actor on the show to win a Daytime Emmy. He also directed episodes of the show a time when Blacks rarely got that opportunity.

An original Tuskegee Airmen, George Hickman passed away on August 19. Hickman, one of the first Black pilots to fly for the U.S. military during World War II, resided in Seattle, Washington.

Lucimarian Roberts, the 88-year-old mother of “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts died August 30. The death came on the same day Robin Roberts said an on-air goodbye before starting medical leave for a bone marrow transplant.

Ed Vincent, who was elected the first Black mayor of Inglewood before serving in the state Legislature, died on August 31. He was 78.

Called a gentle giant, actor Michael Clarke Duncan died of respiratory failure on September 3. Duncan, 54, had been hospitalized since suffering a heart attack in July. He became an actor after leaving the bodyguard business after the death of rapper Notorious B.I.G. His acting credits included “The Green Mile,” “Scorpion King,” “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins,” and “Armageddon.” He also lent his unique baritone voice to such animated projects as “Brother Bear,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “The Proud Family.”

Dr. James “Jimmie” Rodgers, a former pastor at Sacramento’s Shiloh Baptist Church, passed away on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas.

Dorothy Carter, a former stage actress who starred in the adaptation of the groundbreaking novel “Strange Fruit” on Broadway and later became an educator and a children’s book author, died in New York on September 14 after battling bladder cancer. She was 94.

Rev. Willie P. Cooke passed away on September 25, after a long illness. Rev. Cooke led Shiloh Baptist Church from 1957 to 1983. He returned and served as Interim Pastor from 1990 to1991. In his time the church’s helm, Rev. Cooke doubled its membership and sponsored the building of Shiloh Arms, Inc., which provides quality housing and childcare for members of the community.

Motown record producer and songwriter Frank Wilson, who worked with the Supremes, the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, died in Southern California September 27 of lung infection complications. He was 71. Wilson, who later became a minister, wrote or co-wrote the hits “Love Child” for Diana Ross and the Supremes, “Chained” for Marvin Gaye and “All I Need” for the Temptations.

Donald M. Suggs Jr., son of St. Louis American publisher and executive editor Donald M. Suggs, died of heart complications in New York City on Friday, October 5, 2012. He was 51.

After a long career serving his state and country, Mervyn Dymally, considered to be the “Godfather of African American politics” in California, died in Los Angeles on Sunday, October 7 from declining health. He was 86.

Andrew F. Brimmer, the first Black member of the U.S. Federal Reserve and former Tuskegee University Board of Trustees chair died on October 7. He was 86. Brimmer retired in 2010 after serving the Tuskegee University board for 45 years.

Former Maryland senator Clarence Mitchell III died on October 10. At just 23 years of age, Mitchell was elected to the Maryland State House of Delegates and in four years, he became a senator, a seat he held for 20 years.

Jonathan West, a World War II veteran who was among the first Black Americans to serve in the Marines, has died in Bend, Oregon on October 16. West was 91.

Milt Campbell, the first African American to win the Olympic decathlon died on November 2 at the age of 78. Campbell celebrated Olympic victory in 1956. He went on the play professional football and inspire others as a motivational speaker.

Retired Lt. Col. Herbert Eugene Carter, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen who broke color barriers in World War II, died in Tuskegee, Alabama on November 8. He was 95.

Major Harris, a former member of the soul group, the Delfonics and singer of the 1975 hit “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” died in Richmond, Virginia on November 9. He was 65.

Lawrence Guyot, the scion of the Civil Rights Movement who later turned his efforts to statehood for the District of Columbia died Nov. 23 after a long battle with diabetes and heart disease. He was 73.

Harry Sykes, Lexington, Kentucky’s first Black city commissioner, a civil rights leader and former Harlem Globetrotter died on November 28. He was 85.

Kasandra Perkins, 22, was fatally shot on December 1 by her boyfriend, Jovan Belcher, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. Ms. Perkins was the mother of Belcher’s three-month-old child. After shooting her, Belcher drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself in the head infront of the team’s general manager and head coach.

Jerry Brown, Jr., a practice squad player with the Dallas Cowboys was killed in a car crash on December 8. Teammate Josh Brent was indicted this week on an intoxication manslaughter charge. Brent, 24, is accused of being drunk when he crashed his care in Irving, Texas, killing Brown.

Six-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was one of 20 children gunned down on December 14 while attending Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Little Ana was of African American and Puerto Rican descent. Like her father, saxophone recording artist Jimmy Greene, she loved music and was said to have a “voice like an angel.”

Charlotte Broussard, known affectionately as “Sister Charlotte,” died in Sacramento on December 17. Ms. Broussard, 64, was a retired Business Services Advocate for the City of Sacramento. She was also a champion of women and minority-owned small businesses. Ms. Broussard was a charter member of the Elk Grove Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Jesse Hill, Jr., a civil rights leader who helped start Atlanta’s first Black community newspaper in 1960, died on December 17. He was 86. Hill and other civil rights leaders founded the Atlanta Inquirer, where he served as publisher until 1985.

Fontella Bass, a St. Louis-born soul singer who hit the top of the R&B charts with “Rescue Me” in 1965, died on December 26 of complications from a heart attack suffered three weeks ago. She was 72. Her younger brother and fellow singer, David Peaston died in January.
Civil rights pioneer Willis Edwards, longtime president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP, died in July at age 66. In 1982, Edwards was elected President of the NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch. Edwards is credited with by many helping to build the coalition of producers and founders that led to the first NAACP Image Awards live on national television in 1986.

The Sacramento NAACP, California State NAACP, family and friends mourned the loss of one of their most vibrant soldiers, Catherine Juanita Henry in June. She moved to Sacramento from the Bay Area where she and her late husband were jazz pioneers and owners of the KJAZ radio station located in Alameda, California. Ms. Henry was the sister of California NAACP president Alice Huffman.
By: Genoa Barrow
OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer


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  1. […] While marred by drug addiction, Ms. Houston, 48, enjoyed a prolific career … Pulitzer Prize-winner William Raspberry, who served 40 years as a columnist for The Washington Post died July 17 at his home in Washington, D.C. of prostate cancer. He was 76. Read more on Sacramento Observer […]