By Darlene Donloe
A number of noteworthy African Americans closed their eyes for the last time in 2018. They were writers, actors, directors, musicians, publicists, entertainment executives, activists, community leaders, and politicians. All were influential in their own way. Before they left the planet, they made a significant impact. This column pays tribute to those who passed this way.
Jan. 1 – Betty Willis, 60’s soul singer. She was 76.
Jan. 8 – Hearlon “Cheese” Martin, rhythm guitarist with James Brown’s JB’s.
Jan. 9 – Denise LaSalle, R&B singer (Trapped By A Thing Called Love). She was 78.
Jan. 12 - Frankie Muse Freeman – 14th past national Delta Sigma Theta president. A civil-rights icon. She was 101.
Jan. 15 – Edwin Hawkins, gospel musician, pianist, choir master, composer, and arranger. Oh, Happy Day. He was 74.
Jan. 16 – Jo Jo White, American professional basketball player, Boston Celtic, gold medalist. He was 71.
Jan. 18 - Steve ‘Grizzly’ Nisbett, an original founding member of Steel Pulse.
Jan. 19 – Danny Woods, co-founder of The Chairman of the Board. He was 73.
Jan. 19 - Fred Bridges, Brothers of Soul founder. He was 80.
Jan. 20 – Olivia Cole, actress Roots, Backstairs at the White House. She was 75.
Jan. 23 – Hugh Masekela, South African jazz legend, trumpeter, singer and composer. He was 78.
Jan. 28 – Jacquie Jones, Peabody Award-winning director, and longtime former executive director of National Black Programming Consortium. She was 52.
Jan. 31 – Rasual Butler - Played for the Miami Heat, New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards and San Antonio. He was 39.
Feb. 2 – Dennis Edwards, member of the legendary Temptations. He was 74.
Feb. 3 – Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler, world-renowned drummer, producer and session musician. He was 65.
|Reg. E. Cathey|
Feb. 9 – Reg. E. (Reginald Eugene) Cathey, actor on House of Cards and The Wire. He was 59.
Feb. 13 – Dr. Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant, sexual health expert, lecturer, and columnist for Essence magazine. She was 85.
Feb. 14 – Lerone Bennett Jr., an African-American scholar, author and social historian, known for his analysis of race relations in the United States. He was 79.
Feb. 18 – Peggy Cooper Cafritz, co-founder of D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts, civil rights activist, educator, philanthropist, avid art collector and Grande dame of the Washington arts and education scene. She was 70.
Feb. 19 - Cliff Russell, Detroit media personality, news anchor, political analyst, sports commentator, and columnist. He was 61.
March 4 – Boyd Jarvis, a producer, and musician. His synthesizer fueled dance music. He was 59.
March 8 – Floyd Carter Sr., Tuskegee Airman, and NYPD vet. He was 95.
March 10 – R&B Crooner Abraham McDonald (Oprah’s Karaoke Challenge).
March 19 – Les Payne, Newsday journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner. He was 76.
March 22 – Heather Vincent Holley, ABC New Bureau, World News Now, What Would You Do? and 20/20.
March 23 – DuShon Monique Brown, actress (Chicago Fire). She was 49.
March 24 – Pilar McCurry, film and television music supervisor, executive music producer for soundtracks.
March 26 – Linda Brown, center of the Brown V. Board case. She was 76.
Apr. 1 – Amsale Aberra, Ethiopian American fashion designer. She was 64.
|Winnie Madikizela Mandela|
Apr. 2 - Winnie Madikizela Mandela, South African anti-apartheid activist and politician. The former wife of Nelson Mandela. She was 81.
Apr. 4 – Ron Dunbar, Motown songwriter, and producer. He was 77.
Apr. 10 – Yvonne Staples, singer, and manager of The Staple Singers. She was 80.
Apr. 16 – Hal Greer, Philadelphia 76ers – NBA Hall of Famer. He was 81.
Apr. 18 – Kenneth Reynolds, entertainment publicist.
Apr. 26 – Charles Neville, member of the Neville Brothers. He was 79.
Apr. 29 – Reginald McArthur, baritone lead singer for The Controllers. He was 63.
May 2 - John “Jabo” Starks, James Brown’s drummer. He was 79.
May 3 - Shelly Garrett, legendary urban theater director/producer/playwright, known as The Godfather of Urban Theater, and best known for his classic hit play, Beauty Shop. He was believed to be 72.
May 5 - Chef Judson Allen, ‘architect of flavor’ featured on Food Network. He was 36.
May 12 - Grayson Mitchell, Mayor Harold Washington’s first press secretary. He was 67.
May 16 - Hugh Dane, actor. He was 75.
May 19 – Reggie Lucas, producer, songwriter, guitarist. He was 65.
May 28 - Marshall "Rock" Jones, Ohio Players' bassist. He was 65.
May 31 – Michael Ajakwe Jr., writer, director, producer and web festival pioneer, and organizer. He was 52.
June 3 – Eddy Clearwater, Chicago bluesman. He was 83.
June 12 – Ghalib Ghallab, noted keyboardist and singer. He was 67.
June 15 – Matt “GUITAR” Murphy, sideman (Howlin' Wolf, Memphis Slim) and blues player. Blues Brothers guitarist. He was 88.
June 18 - Ted Shine, playwright. He was 87.
June 21 – John Mack, Los Angeles civic leader, former Los Angeles Urban League president. He was 81.
June 27 – Joseph ‘Joe’ Jackson, talent manager and patriarch of the legendary Jackson family. He was 89.
July 8 – Clifford Rozier, former NBA center. He was 45.
July 8 - Anita Poree, songwriter, and Kenwood artist. She was 78.
July 9 - Clinton Ghent, dancer, choreographer and ‘Soul Train’ host. He was 78.
July 22 - Gil Small, Jr., soul singer, and producer.
July 23 - Elbert Howard, a founder of the Black Panthers. He was 80.
July 26 - Dedry Jones, Chicago South Side record store owner. He was 64.
July 30 – Ronald Dellums, Congressman. The first African American to chair the Armed Services Committee. The former mayor of Oakland, CA. He was 82.
Aug. 8 - Simply Marvalous (Marva L. Moncrieffe), comedian. She was 64.
Aug. 9 - The Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary. The first African-American woman ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and a foremost scholar of the womanist movement. She was 68.
Aug. 16 – Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. She was 76.
Aug. 20 - Eddie Willis, guitarist for Motown’s Funk Brothers. He was 82.
Sept. 1 – Johnny Morris, a radio engineer at KSOL San Francisco, KDIA Oakland, KGFJ, KUTE, KACE, and KTYM.
Sept. 1 - Art Porter, radio producer, booker. He was 63.
Sept. 12 - Ken Smikle, founder of Target Market News, publisher/journalist. He was 66.
Sept. 19 – Johnny Dawson, Motown’s The Elgins.
Sept. 19 - Arthur Mitchell, barrier-breaking black dancer. He helped to start Dance Theatre of Harlem. He was 84.
Sept. 19 - Venisha Brown, God Father of Soul James Brown’s daughter. A songwriter, and musician. She was 53.
Sept. 26 – Al Matthews, singer, and actor. He was 75.
Sept. 29 – Otis Rush, blues guitarist, singer, songwriter. He was 84.
Sept. 30 - James “Big Jim” Wright, Grammy Award-winning producer, composer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and singer.
Oct. 3 – Joel ‘Razorsharp’ Johnson, keyboardist and funk musician.
Oct. 8 - George Taliaferro, the first African-American drafted by an NFL team. He was 91.
Oct. 9 - Warner Saunders, retired NBC5 anchor. He was 83.
Oct. 10 – Raye Montague. She broke the glass ceiling and in the process changed the way the U.S. Navy designed ships. She is credited with creating the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. Naval ship. She was 83.
Oct. 16 – Gary Young, New Birth vocalist.
Oct. 17 - Rashod Ollison, music critic/newspaper writer/author. He was 41.
Oct. 17 – Keith Haines, Dazz Band keyboardist. He was 55.
Oct. 24 – Melvin Ragin – “Wah Wah” Watson, guitarist. He was 67.
Oct. 27 – Ntozake Shange, playwright (For Colored Girls), poet and novelist. She was 70.
Oct. 31 - Keith Wilder, Heatwave member Always and Forever singer. He was 65.
Nov. 3 - Roy Hargrove, trumpeter, R&B great. He was 49.
Nov. 7 – A. Barry Rand, one of the first black CEOS of a publicly traded company. He was 74.
Nov. 8 - Wally Triplett, first African American to be drafted and play in the NFL. He was 92.
Nov. 18 - Ethel Ayler, actress (Eve's Bayou, The Cosby Show). She was 88.
Nov. 18 - Ethel Ayler, actress (Eve's Bayou, The Cosby Show). She was 88.
Nov. 21 – Dr. Olivia Hooker, Tulsa race riot survivor, the first African-American woman to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard and minority trailblazer. She was 103.
Nov. 21 – New York State Senator Jose Peralta. He was 47.
Nov 22 – Vernita Lee, Oprah Winfrey’s mother. She was 83.
Nov. 24 - Vernon C. Floyd, Mississippi broadcasting industry veteran. He was 91.
Dec. 6 - Andrew Frierson, the pioneering Black opera singer. He was 94.
Dec. 7 - Charles Weldon, actor, producer, and artistic director of the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) since 2004. He was 78.
Dec. 8 – Wilfred DeFour, World War 11 Tuskegee Airman. He was 100.
Dec. 13 – Nancy Wilson, Grammy-winning jazz singer. She was 81.
Dec. 26 - Brian Sleet, Chicago political consultant. He was 41.