Relatives and relative strangers. A vicious virus united us with a prevailing sense of loss. It got to the point when we cringed every time the phone rang or we turned on the television, fearing that there would be news of yet another person passing away. This year has seen the deaths of legends and loved ones alike. Many across the country, and close to home, were claimed by COVID-19, while others succumbed to the ravages of illness or time. Others were children who barely had time to make their marks in this world.
As a rough year ends, The Sacramento OBSERVER takes a minute to reflect and acknowledge some of the many Blacks who died in 2020. They are gone, but not forgotten.
Nick Gordon, the boyfriend of late celebrity daughter Bobbi Christina Brown died of a drug overdose on January 1. Gordon, who was found liable in the death of Ms. Brown, the daughter of singers Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston, was 30.
Houston Hogg, one of four African American football players at the University of Kentucky who broke the Southeastern Conference color line in the late 1960s, died on January 3 at age 71.
Martha Levert, the mother of late singers Gerald and Sean Levert died on January 2 at age 74.
NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna perished in a helicopter crash on January 26.
Trailblazing football player and coach Willie Wood, Sr. passed away on February 3. Wood, a former Green Bay Packer and NFL Hall of Famer, was 83 years old.
Former federal judge and NAACP attorney Nathaniel Jones, died of congestive heart failure on January 26. Jones, 93 has a federal courthouse in Youngstown, Cincinnati named after him.
Itasker Hollins, Sr. founder of the All Nations Church of God In Christ (COGIC) passed away of prostate cancer on February 2; he was 82.
Calvin Miller, 69, a longtime deacon at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, died on February 5. His mother, Rose Miller, a respected elder at the church, died four days later on February 9; she was 99.
Joseph Shabalala, founder of the South African acapella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo died on February 11 at age 78.
Ja’Net Dubois, the actress who played the vivacious neighbor Willona Woods on “Good Times” and composed and sang the theme song for “The Jeffersons,” died on February 17; she was 74.
Barbara Elaine Smith, the renowned New York restaurant owner, TV host and cookbook author, known to the world as B. Smith died on February 22 after battling Alzheimer’s disease.
On February 23, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man, was pursued and fatally shot while jogging near Brunswick in Glynn County, Georgia. Arbery’s killing and the delayed investigation and arrests of suspects reignited debates about racial violence.
Katherine Johnson, the Black mathematician whose brilliance was critical to NASA’s early space program and was featured in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures” died February 24 at age 101. Mattel released a special edition Barbie doll in Johnson’s likeness earlier this year.
Vanessa Franklin, who volunteered with the Sacramento Homeless Union and participated in events organized by the Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign, died on February 25. The Richmond, California native was remembered last week as area activists read aloud the names of unhoused neighbors who passed away in 2020.
Local businessman and political influencer James Sweeney died on February 27 after a private battle with cancer. Sweeney, 71, was Director of Legislation with BAPAC (Black American Political Association of California), Sacramento Chapter vice president and chief lobbyist for the California NAACP.
Taylor Blackwell, a local 19-year-old was found dead in a South Sacramento hotel on February 28. Her grief-stricken mother was joined by area activists in calling for answers and justice.
Black mystery writer Barbara Neely died in Philadelphia on March 2 at the age of 78.
Fred “Curly” Neal made fans fall in love with basketball as a player and Goodwill Ambassador with the Harlem Globetrotters; Neal, 77, died at his Houston area home on March 26.
Airickca Gordon-Taylor, a cousin of Emmett Till who kept the lynched teen’s legacy alive, died in Chicago on March 21, she was 50.
Influential jazz pianist McCoy Tyner died March 6. Tyner, 81, was the last surviving member of the groundbreaking John Coltrane Quartet.
Rev. Darius L. Swann, who challenged segregation in public schools, died of pneumonia at his Virginia home on March 8; he was 95.
EMT Breonna Taylor, was shot eight times on March 13 by law enforcement who came to her Louisville, Kentucky home looking for a suspect in a drug investigation. Taylor’s death sparked protests and calls to ban no-knock warrants.
Lenard Wells, who helped ensure African Americans had equal access to promotions in a desegregated Milwaukee Police Department died on March 21 at age 69. Wells was living in Mississippi, where he taught.
Renowned jazz pioneer Manu Dibango, 86, died in France of COVID-19 on March 24.
Civil rights champion, Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, who prayed at President Barack Obama’s inaugural benediction, died in Atlanta on March 27; Rev. Lowery was 98.
Rodney Vernell Shaw, the 38-year-old son of former Black Infant Health Program director Sharon Saffold, passed away on March 26.
Bill Withers, who sang “Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Grandma’s Hands” died of heart complications on March 30, he was 81.
Sam Clayton, who was a member of the Jamaican bobsled team that inspired the film “Cool Runnings” passed away from the coronavirus on March 31; he was 58 years old.
Internationally renowned jazz pianist, educator and patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr. died of COVID-19 on April 1; he was 85.
Longtime Sacramento entrepreneur Ann Hill passed away April 1. Ms. Hill owned three business enterprises in the Sacramento area: Broadway Soul Food Restaurant in the Oak Park Area; Java City at the Sacramento Airport; and Ann Hill Bail Bonds which had locations in Sacramento and the Bay Area.
David Driskell, one of the nation’s leading authorities on Black art died in Hyattsville, Maryland on April 1, he was 88.
Detroit bus driver Jason Hargrove, 50, died of COVID-19 on April 1 after going viral with a video he posted about a passenger openly coughing on his bus.
Black Enterprise Founder and Publisher Earl G. Graves Sr., who inspired four generations of African Americans to build wealth through entrepreneurship, passed away on April 6 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Graves was 85.
Carmen Williamson, who became the first Black boxing referee and judge at the 1984 Olympic games died of COVID-19 complications in Toledo, Ohio on April 8; he was 94.
Philadelphia rising rapper Chynna Rogers, who was a former Ford model, died on April 8 at the age of 25; her death was ruled an accidental drug overdose.
Jackie Court, the first woman of color hired to coach at Brown University, died April 12; she was 81.
Jacqueline Towns, the mother of Karl-Anthony Towns, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves died of COVID-19 complications on April 13.
Area drummer and culture historian Esutosin Omowale Osunkoya died of COVID-19 April 13; he was 76. Born Charles L. Brunson, Osunkoya was also the co-founder of the Sacramento Branch of the Black Panther Party.
Longtime Sacramento resident Constance Claytor-Davis, who was involved in numerous civic organizations including the Urban League Guild, The Classy Lads ‘n Lassies and The Sacramento Black Nurses Association, died on April 15 at age 92.
Longtime Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane, who wrote about race and its impact on the city, was found dead in his apartment on April 16, he was 63.
Jace Prescott, the 31-year-old brother of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, committed suicide on April 24 after a bout with depression.
Kenneth Edmonds, publisher of the Black newspaper, The Carolina Times, died in North Carolina on May 2, he was 66.
Music mogul Andre Harrell, who founded Uptown Records and developed the New Jack Swing style of R&B, died on May 7 at the age of 59.
Music legend Little Richard, known for hits such as“Lucille,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Tutti Frutti,” died of bone cancer in Tullahoma, Tennessee on May 9, he was 87. Born Richard Penniman, Little Richard was one of rock `n’ roll’s founding fathers who helped shatter the color line on the music charts.
Grammy-winning soul singer and songwriter Betty Wright died at her Miami home on May 10 after a battle with cancer. Wright, 66, was known for such hits as “Clean Up Woman,” “Tonight is the Night” and “No Pain (No Gain).”
Local senior Dora M. Daniels passed away on May 15 at age 99, she was a board member and tireless advocate for the Women’s Civic Improvement Club in Oak Park and a founding member of Century Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
Gladys Johnson, grandmother of former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson passed away on May 18 at the age of 96 years old.
A Minnesota man, George Floyd died on May 25 after a White police officer, Derek Chauvin, applied a knee to his neck for more than eight minutes, while he called out in an all too familiar plea that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd, local club bouncer, had been accused of using a counterfeit $20 at a store. His death sparked global protests.
Ziyon Butler, a five-year-old from Antioch died on May 25 and was found from the American River a day later. Despite the pandemic, his family had been celebrating Memorial Day in Discovery Park.
Former Indiana University football player Chris Beaty was fatally shot on May 30 by a robber following a protest over the police-involved death of George Floyd. Beaty, 38, earned the nickname “Mr. Indianapolis” by working as a club manager and event promoter.
Gregory Tyree Boyce, a 30-year-old actor who appeared in the popular “Twilight” movie died of an apparent drug overdose on May 30, along with his girlfriend.
Malcolm Harsch, 38, was found hanging from a tree in Victorville on May 31, near a homeless encampment; his death was ruled a suicide after a review of surveilance video.
Dr. Thomas Freeman, a preacher, lecturer and debate team coach who led Texas Southern University to prominence died on June 6. Students of Dr. Freeman, 101, included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and Denzel Washington.
Bonnie Pointer, a Grammy-winning founding member of the Pointer Sisters, who was essential to the group’s early success, died on June 8 of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles; she was 69.
Robert Fuller, 24, was found in Palmdale on June 10, hanging from a tree near City Hall.
Longtime gospel radio personality Tyra “Phillips” Womack, 57, was shot and killed outside her Baltimore home on June 10.
Carl Brewer, Wichita, Kansas’ first elected African American mayor and a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, died June 12 after a long illness; he was 63.
Retired Judge James “Jimmie” Long died on June 30 after a battle with chronic lung disease. Judge Long, 82, served in the Superior Court of Sacramento County for nearly 30 years and was a mentor to many Blacks pursuing careers in the legal field.
Sacramento’s Rosemary “Mikki” Parham passed away on July 1. Parham, 70, was a proud member of the Eta Gamma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Former community educator and local activist Janet Coleman passed away on July 3; she was 91 years old.
Before Idris, there was Earl; pioneering British film actor Earl Cameron died on July 3 at the age of 102.
Yvonne Bechet, first Black woman to serve in the New Orleans Police Department died July 5.
Tobie Gene Levingston, who founded the East Bay Dragons, Oakland’s first all-Black motorcycle club, died July 7 of natural causes; he was 86.
“Glee” actress Naya Rivera, drowned on July 8 while boating in Ventura County with her 4-year-old son; Rivera who also appeared in “Family Matters,” was 33.
Zindziswa “Zindzi” Mandela, the diplomat and poet who was the daughter of South African anti-apartheid leaders Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, died on July 13 at age 59.
Willie Elvin Land, the father of Sacramento activist Jamilia Land, died of COVID-19 in a Georgia nursing home on July 16. He was 84.
Clarence Burke, Sr., the former Chicago police detective who was known for managing his children in the 1960s soul group The Five Stairsteps, passed away in a Atlanta hospital after a seizure on July 16, a day before his 91st birthday. The Five Stairsteps are best known for their classic hit, “Ooh Child.”
Longtime Congressmember John Lewis died on July 17 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. The 80-year-old icon stirred up “Good Trouble” and was lauded for his decades of activism and service at the forefront of the civil rights movement.
Legendary civil rights leader CT Vivian died in Atlanta, Georgia on July 17, the same day as his friend and fellow leader and activist John Lewis. Former President Barack Obama called Vivian, 95, “the greatest preacher to ever live” and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Zarrie Allen, a first-year student at Sacramento State was the victim of a drive-by shooting on July 20; the 18-year old, originally of Richmond, was at the Sacramento Memorial Lawn Cemetery near Stockton Boulevard, mourning a friend at the time of the shooting.
James Rudd, who served as the first African American chief deputy of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department in north Mississippi, died of COVID-19 on July 20; he was 86.
Jeremy Southern, 22, was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers on July 21 after he pointed a gun at them. Southern’s family questions why he was shot a second time when he was already on the ground, bleeding, clearly feet away from the gun, and have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the SacPD, claiming officers failed to de-escalate the situation.
Local Black theater champion Lisa Tarrer Lacy passed away on July 22 a week before her 65th birthday. Lacy started out with Sacramento State’s renowned Sons and Ancestors Players and went on to start Images Theatre Company in 2003.
Helen Jones Wood, a pioneering trombonist who in the 1940s played with an all-female group, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, died in Sarasota, Florida on July 25 at age 96.
Malik B, a rapper and founding member of The Roots, died on July 29. He was 47.
Former presidential candidate Herman Cain died of COVID-19 on July 30, after attending a rally featuring President Donald Trump, where most attendees didn’t wear masks as directed by health officials. Caine, 74, was a businessman and sought the Republican nomination for president in 2012. He was also a member of the Tea Party movement.
Sacramento hair stylist and master trainer Parnell Walker died on July 31, a week shy of his 71st birthday. The Oakland native participated in hair shows across the country and owned a chain of Parnell Curl Centers.
Hazel Greer Williams, who along with her sister Mazel became one of the first Black twins to serve in the U.S. military, died of COVID-19 in Fort Worth, Texas on August 2. Willams was 95.
Retired Sacramento teacher and school administrator Frank Withrow died on August 7 after a courageous battle with cancer. Withrow served as a teacher and leader within the Sacramento City Unified School District for more than three decades and chaired the United Black Student Unions of California Advisory Board for 15 years.
Nate Simpson, the co-founder of the South Side of Chicago haven known as “The Rink,” died on August 8.
James Harris, the Mississippi-born sharecropper who gained international fame as WWF wrestler “Kamala the Ugandan Giant,” died of cardiac arrest due to COVID-19 on August 9. Harris, 70, had suffered from other health ailments and both of his legs were amputated due to diabetes.
Raymond Allen, the actor known for his roles as Ned the Wino on “Good Times,” Aunt Esther’s husband Woodrow on “Sanford and Son” and Merle the Earl on “Starsky and Hutch” died of a respiratory illness on August 10; he was 91.
Tuskegee Airman, Sgt. James Cotten died in New Jersey on August 14; he was 93.
Joseph Kitchen, president of the Young Democrats of Maryland was found dead in Washington, DC, on August 16, more than a week after he went missing in Maryland, he was 34.
Former California lawmaker Gwen Moore died on August 19. Moore served in the California Assembly from 1978-1994 and chaired the California Legislative Black Caucus. She is credited with creating legislation that leveled the playing field for minority small businesses in state contracts.
Sgt. Virgil Thomas, a 24-year veteran of the Richmond, California police department died August 20 after being exposed to COVID-19 while on duty. Sgt. Thomas was president of the Richmond Police Officers Association and a member of Guardians For Justice, which supported fair treatment of Blacks within the police department.
Singer-songwriter DeWayne Julius “D.J.” Rogers died in his native Los Angeles on August 22. Rogers, 72, was best known for his 1975 hit, “Say You Love Me.”
Actor Chadwick Boseman died on August 28 after a private battle with colon cancer. Boseman, 43, won international acclaim for his role in the blockbuster 2018 film “Black Panther.” He also portrayed real Black icons such as James Brown in “Get On Up,” Jackie Robinson in “42” and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.” Boseman is receiving high praise and Oscar consideration for his last film, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
Randall Kenan, an award-winning author whose stories explored the experience of being Black and gay in the American South died on August 29; Kenan was 57.
Former Portland Trailblazers standout Cliff Robinson died on August 29 at the age of 53.
It was the house that “Big John” built. Former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson Jr. died on August 30. Thompson, 78, was the first Black coach to lead a team to the national championship in 1984 and lead the Hoyas to three Final Fours in the 1980s and seven Big East titles. Thompson also led the United States national team to a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics and recruited players to Georgetown who went on to successful careers in the NBA and are now in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Thompson was himself inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
Retired Major Gene Willie Strahan, the father of “Good Morning America” co-host and NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, died on August 31. The elder Strahan, 83, was a veteran and former educator.
Esther E. McReady, the first African American admitted to University of Maryland’s school of nursing died near Baltimore on September 2. McReady was 89.
Feminist Myesha Jenkins who used her poems and platform to speak out against apartheid in the 1990s died in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 5.
Bruce Williamson, a former lead singer of The Temptations died of COVID-19 complications on September 6, just three weeks shy of his 50th birthday. Williamson joined the iconic group in 1994 and left it in 2015.
Lou Brock, whose play as a St. Louis Cardinals left fielder earned him a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, died on September 6; he was 81.
Joel Broussard, a 39-year-old Elk Grove father who ran for Elk Grove mayor in 2016, was killed on September 8 when a semi truck barrelled into other drivers on I-50 near Florin Road.
College football player Jamain Stephens, Jr., 20, died on September 8 of a blood clot in his heart; he had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the year. He was the son of Jamain Stephens, Sr. who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.
Ronald “Khalis” Bell, a co-founder, singer and producer of the group Kool & the Gang, died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 9.
Reggae progenitor Frederick “Toots” Hibbert died in Kingston, Jamaica on September 11 while in a medically induced coma, awaiting COVID-19 results. Hibbert, 77, helped take island rhythms to the international stage as the lead singer of Toots & the Maytals.
Danny Webster, a singer and guitarist with the funk band Slave, died on September 11. Webster was 61.
Robert Coleman, an 88-year-old Black man was fatally shot by West Sacramento police officers September 12. Officers say Coleman, a former code and parking enforcement officer for the City, approached them, carrying a gun.
Singer Edna Wright died on September 12. Wright, 75, had a hit song, “Want Ads” with the R&B group Honey Cone. After the group broke up in the 1970s, she performed background vocals for other recording artists. Wright was the younger sister of fellow singer Darlene Love.
The body of Alabama State sophomore Adam Dowdell was found on September 14, a week after the 22-year-old went missing after going to an ATM. A fellow ASU student is charged with his murder.
Contentious jazz critic and columnist Stanley Crouch died in a New York hospice facility on September 16. Crouch, 74, was a visiting professor at Columbia University and president of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation.
Civil rights leader and community organizer Bennie Swans Jr., died in his Myrtle Beach, South Carolina home on September 19. Swans, 70, was a decorated Army vet who fought for the MLK Day holiday.
NFL Hall of Famer Gale Sayers died on September 23 after living with dementia. Sayers, 77, was known as the “The Kansas Comet” and had his friendship with Chicago Bears teammate Brian Piccolo, depicted in the 1971 film, “Brian’s Song,”
MAGA influencer Larry “KingFace” Henry passed away in New York on September 28. Kingface, 38, had reportedly been in a coma due to a kidney infection.
Thomas Jefferson Byrd, 70, known for his roles in several Spike Lee films like “Get On The Bus” and “He Got Game,” was fatally shot in Atlanta on October 3.
Ten-month-old Zara Scruggs was raped and beaten to death in Pennsylvania on October 3. Her father has been charged with assault and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Sacramento teen Jaylen Betschart was shot and killed on October 3, the apparent victim of road rage.
Albert “Skip” Brown, Jr., who taught within the Stockton Unified School District for 25 years, was former vice president of the Stockton NAACP and was affiliated with Stockton Family Day, died on October 5, four days after turning 76.
Johnny Nash, the singer best known for his 1971 hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” died in his Houston home on October 6 at age 80.
Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Gibson died of pancreatic cancer in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska on October 7; he was 84.
Sgt. Harold Preston, a 65-year-old Houston police officer, was shot and killed on October 10 while responding to a domestic violence call, only two weeks away from his retirement.
Oakland native Joe Morgan, a Hall of Fame second baseman who helped propel the Cincinnati Reds baseball team to back-to-back championship titles in the mid 1970s, died at his home in Danville on October 11; he was 77.
Fred Dean, a former San Francisco 49er whose pass rushing earned him a spot in the pro football hall of fame, died on October 14 at age 68.
Dr. Irving Pressley McPhail, president of Saint Augustine University in Raleigh, North Carolina, passed away on October 15 after contracting the COVID-19 virus. McPhail, 71, had only begun his tenure on July 15.
Dr. Edward L. Varnado, who led Sacramento’s Macedonia Baptist Church for nearly 50 years, was called home on October 19; he was 79 years old.
Willie Brown Jr., a father of four, died on October 26, after being found a week earlier hanging from a basketball hoop in Sacramento’s Countryside Park. Police pointed to suicide, but Brown’s family questioned the investigation.
Tuskegee Airman Reginald Brewster died on October 26. He’d celebrated his 103 birthday earlier in the month. After the war, Brewster attended Fordham Law School and practiced law until he was 90.
Gospel star Rance Allen, who performed with his brothers as the Rance Allen Group died on October 31 at the age of 71. The Allens were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
Tracey Davis, an author and daughter of iconic performer Sammy Davis Jr. died in Tennessee on November 2; she was 59.
Local Korean War veteran Carl Patrick Jones died on November 4, he was 94. Jones taught at Nashville’s Meharry Medical College, Morgan State in Baltimore and Kentucky State, despite not being a doctor or having a bachelor’s degree.
Lucille Bridges, who walked her daughter Ruby past crowds of racists to become the first Black student at an all-White New Orleans elementary school, died on November 10 at the age of 86.
Rogers Johnson, a former New Hampshire lawmaker who served as president of the Seacoast NAACP and was chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, died November 12 at age 62.
Walter Hawkins, a consultant with California Black Media, died in San Bernardino on November 18. Hawkins, 72, had recently worked to help increase Black participation in the 2020 Census.
Area father Ahmad “Nuru” Hempstead was beaten to death on November 20 in a vacant South Sacramento apartment where he was working as a handyman. Hempstead, 48, was a former professional boxer and supported local spoken word venues.
Veteran journalist J. Shawn Ortiz died on November 21, just a month after coming out of retirement to assume the position of Sacramento OBSERVER Editor-In-Chief. Ortiz previously wrote for the paper in the early 1970s and in recent years, contributed on occasion as a columnist and special reports writer. He was 69.
Fourteen-year-old Honestie Hodges, who was handcuffed by police in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2017, prompting national outrage, died of COVID-19 on November 22. Hodges was just 11 when officers, who had been looking for a White female suspect, pulled guns on the child, who was home alone, and restrained her. The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing, but the police department created an “Honestie Policy” on how to interact with children at crime scenes.
Shirley Williams, the 85-year-old mother of gossip TV host Wendy Williams died in Miami, Florida on November 29.
There was more tragedy for singer Bobby Brown as his 28-year-old son, Bobby Jr. was found dead in Los Angeles on November 18.
Former state Rep. Alvin Holmes, who had been the longest-serving member of the Alabama House of Representatives before his 2018 defeat, died on November 21 at the age of 81.
Frank Macon, one of Colorado’s two remaining original Tuskegee Airmen died on November 22; he was 97.
Bruce Carver Boynton, the Alabama civil rights pioneer who inspired the landmark “Freedom Rides” of 1961, died on November 23 at the age of 93.
David Dinkins, New York’s first Black mayor, died on November 23 at the age of 93.
Dewayne James, Jr., 19, and his brother Sa’Quan Reed James, 17, were shot and killed at the on November 27, while at Arden Fair Mall on Black Friday.
Mary L. Smith, the first female president of the HBCU Kentucky State University died on November 28 at the age of 84.
Local photographer Ricky Boyland, who worked as an information systems analyst with the Department of Consumer Affairs for 30 years, died on December 5; he was 63.
Eighteen-year-old Omari Bryant was found hanging outside a Homerville, Georgia hotel on December 5. Officials ruled it a suicide but the teen’s family has challenged that finding.
Joshua Feast, 22, was fatally shot by police in La Marque, Texas on December 9. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump took the case and recently announced that an independent autopsy revealed Feast was shot in the back.
Actor Tommy “Tiny” Lister, most known for his role as Deebo in “Friday” and President Lindberg in “The Fifth Element,” died of COVID-19 on December 10; he was 62.
Veteran actress Carol Sutton, who appeared in such films as “The Pelican Brief,” “Ray” and “The Help,” died of COVID-19 complications on December 10.
Pioneering Black country singer Charley Pride, who had hits with songs like “Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” and “Is Anybody Going to San Antone?,” died of COVID-19 in Dallas on December 12; he was 86.
Jesse James, one of the first African American marines died in Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 13; James was 99.
Jimmy Collins, who coached Illinois-Chicago men’s basketball to the NCAA tournament three times in 14 seasons, died on December 13, he was 74.
Raymond J. Charles, Sacramento’s first African American fire chief, died on December 15. Charles, 92, has a “Hall of Fame” inside the Sacramento Safety Center named after him.
Ronald Robinson, the younger brother of former Sacramento OBSERVER advertising representative Eddie Robinson, died in Los Angeles of COVID-19 on December 15; a U.S. veteran, he was 68.
Dr. Susan Moore of Indiana died on December 20 after battling COVID-19; the 52-year-old went viral with a video complaining of racist medical care.
Seven-year-old Kennedy Maxie was fatally shot on December 20 while Christmas shopping in the affluent Buckhead area of Atlanta, Georgia.
Dennis Williams, the father of Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams died on December 20; he was 68.
Kymeshia Beasley, 27, was shot and killed in her Hagginwood Park area apartment on December 21 while her children slept. Her husband has been charged with her murder.
Arizona civil rights leader Calvin C. Goode, who was just the second African American to serve on the city’s city council, died on December 23. Goode, 93, has a municipal building named in his honor.
John Outterbridge, a sculptor and pivotal figure in the Los Angeles Black art scene, died on December 23 at age 87.
Hip-hop legend John “Ecstasy” Fletcher of Whodini fame died on December 23. Fletcher, 56, had hits with classic songs like “Friends” and “Freaks Come Out A Night.”
Boston Celtics legend K.C. Jones died on December 25; Jones, who had been living with Alzheimer’s disease, helped the Celtics win eight NBA titles as a player and two as head coach; he was 88.
Joe Clark, the unapologetic educator/administrator who turned around Patterson, New Jersey’s East Side High and inspired the 1989 film “Lean On Me,” died on December 29; Clark was 82.
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer