Remembering the celebrities lost in 2021 and early 2022
By Tamera Robinson
Betty White was a beloved American actress who starred in “The Golden Girls,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Hot in Cleveland.” During her early work in TV, she was known as the First Lady of Game Shows. White started on radio doing a little of whatever was needed — creating sound effects, reading commercials, singing and more. After serving in the American Women’s Voluntary Services during World War II, White made the move to TV and co-hosted the variety show “Hollywood on Television.” She is believed to have been the first woman to host a TV talk show, and the gig brought White her first Emmy Award nomination. Betty died of a stroke on Dec. 31, 2021, in Los Angeles at age 99, just weeks before her 100th birthday.
Starting out as a comic on stage, Bob Saget became more widely known for his involvement in family-friendly programming, including "Full House" as the widowed father of three girls and as the host of "America's Funniest Home Videos.” Saget continued doing stand-up comedy, releasing multiple specials, and taking his show on the road. Saget also launched a podcast in 2020, titled "Bob Saget's Here For You.” He died at age 65 on Jan. 9, 2022, in Orlando.
Sir Sidney Poitier
Sir Sidney Poitier was an acting legend who starred in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and became the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in “Lilies of the Field.” His performance in “The Defiant Ones” in 1958 also earned an Academy Award nomination. In 1974 he was knighted, carrying the honor of Knight Commander of the British Empire. Other awards and honors bestowed on Poitier include life achievement awards from the Screen Actors Guild and American Film Institute, Kennedy Center Honors, NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame member, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Poitier died on Jan. 6, 2022, at age 94.
Grammy-nominated rapper DMX, born Earl Simmons, began rapping in the genre’s early days. He beatboxed for another rapper before writing lyrics and performing mix tapes to help build his popularity in New York. He began to be featured on other rappers’ releases including LL Cool J’s 1991 single “4, 3, 2, 1.” His raspy voice was distinctive and immediately recognizable. In 2012, DMX changed his life when he became involved in church and aspired to be a pastor. Simmons died on April 9, 2021, in New York, after being on life support from a cardiac arrest at age 50.
Norm Macdonald was a comedian who anchored “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1990s. He first joined “Saturday Night Live” in 1993 and became well known for his work on “Weekend Update” where he had a deadpan delivery that became his signature. After leaving SNL in 1998, he starred in several movies including “Dirty Work,” “Dr. Dolittle,” “Man on the Moon,” “Funny People” and “Grown Ups.” Macdonald also starred in “The Norm Show.” He died of acute leukemia at age 61 on Sept. 14, 2021.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was the husband of Queen Elizabeth II. He and Elizabeth married in 1947 and he was the longest-serving royal consort in British history and the oldest male royal in history. In 1956, he established the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which encourages young people to engage in activities including volunteerism, fitness and adventuring to earn gold, silver or bronze awards. Prince Philip died at age 99 on April 9, 2021, at Windsor Castle.
Cicely Tyson was an award-winning actress whose roles included “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” “Roots,” “King,” “Sounder” and “The Help.” Tyson portrayed strong African-American women and shattered racial stereotypes. She was also a strong proponent of civil rights. Tyson was a trailblazer who paved the way for many other artists. She died on Jan. 28, 2021, at age 96.
Michael K. Williams
Beginning his career as a dancer, Michael K. Williams transitioned to television with his breakout role in “The Wire” as a gay robber who targeted drug dealers. Williams also starred in “Boardwalk Empire,” “Lovecraft Country,” “Alias” and “Community.” Williams died at age 54 on Sept. 6, 2021, in New York.
Samuel E. Wright
Samuel E. Wright voiced Sebastian the crab in the animated film “The Little Mermaid.” He also performed on Broadway in “Pippin,” “The Tap Dance Kid” and “The Lion King,” where he starred as Mufasa in the stage version of the Disney classic. Samuel died of prostate cancer at age 72 in New York.