In memoriam:
Newsmakers and notables we lost in 2022

By NABJ Black News & Views  

From actors to activists, and from Autherine Lucy to Zuri Craig, the Black global community was forced to say goodbye in 2022 to many of its idols, mentors and leaders. They made us laugh, cry, think, love and act. Here is an NABJ Black News & Views tribute to some of them.

Mary Alice, 85
Mississippi native Mary Alice, an Emmy and Tony winner, was best known for her performances as Rose Maxson in the Broadway version of August Wilson’s “Fences,” Lettie Bostic in TV’s “A Different World” and screen performances in “Sparkle,” “Malcolm X” and “The Matrix Revolutions.” She died July 27 of natural causes in New York City. Photo credit: Alan Light
"Momma Gloria" Allen, 76
Trans activist
“Mama Gloria” dedicated her life to bettering lives within the trans community in Chicago, Illinois, and was the subject of an award-winning documentary. It is believed she died peacefully in her sleep June 13 in Chicago. Photo credit:
Kirsnick Khari Ball (Takeoff), 28
Takeoff, (far right) born in suburban Atlanta, was one-third of the rap group Migos and was known as the low-key member of the trio. He was fatally shot November 1 outside of a Houston, Texas, bowling alley. Police said Takeoff was an innocent bystander. Photo credit: Motown Records/Capitol Records
Marion Barber, 39
NFL running back
Minnesota native Marion Barber played seven seasons for the Dallas Cowboys after being recruited in the 2005 NFL Draft. He died June 1 of heat stroke in Frisco, Texas. Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James E. Foehl
Thom Bell, 79
Soul music icon
Kingston, Jamaica, native Thom Bell was one of the creators of Philadelphia soul. He was a producer and songwriter for the Stylistics, the Spinners and the Delfonics. Among the songs he wrote were “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time).” Bell died December 22 in Bellingham, Washington, after a long illness. Photo credit: MusicNotes Inc.
Stephen Laurel "tWitch" Boss, 40
Dancer, producer, choreographer
Montgomery, Alabama, native “tWitch” exploded on the national scene in 2008, when he came in third place on TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” He later went on to DJ and executive produce “The Ellen Degeneres Show.” “tWitch” took his own life. He was found dead December 13 in an Encino, California, hotel. Photo credits: Megan Padilla; So You Think You Can Dance
Moe Brooker, 81
Abstract painter, printmaker, educator
Moe Brooker was a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whose early creative inspirations were the A.M.E. Church, where his father was a minister, a brother who was a jazz pianist and a grandmother who made quilts. He taught at several art schools and was the first Black person to teach at the Cleveland Institute of Art. He died January 9 at a hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania.
Lawerence Brooks, 112
Oldest known World War II veteran
Brooks was born in Norwood, Louisiana, and was drafted in the U.S. Army in 1940, serving in the 91st Engineer Battalion Unit until his 1945 discharge. He earned the WWII Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation and Meritorious Service Medal, among others, He died January 5 at home in New Orleans. Photo credit: The National WWII Museum
Johnny Brown, 84
Actor, singer
Johnny Brown was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, and was best known for playing building superintendent Nathan Bookman in the TV sitcom “Good Times.” Brown died March 2 in Los Angeles, California. He collapsed shortly after seeing a doctor about his pacemaker. Photo credit: NBC Television
Theadore Brown (Teddy Ray), 32
Theadore Brown, known professionally as Teddy Ray, was born in Los Angeles, California. He burst onto the comedy scene about 10 years ago and was best known for taking part in All Def Digital, Russell Simmons’ platform. Brown died August 12 of an apparent drowning in Rancho Mirage, California.
Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, 73
Pastor, civic leader
Butts, born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was leader for three decades of the influential Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. He was credited for helping to revive Harlem and for prodding Congress to hold police brutality hearings in New York. For 21 years, he also was president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury in Long Island. Butts died at home in Harlem on October 28 of pancreatic cancer. Photo credit: Lindsay Beyerstein
Irene Cara, 63
Singer, songwriter, actress
Irene Cara was born Irene Cara Escalera in the South Bronx, New York. She entered show business as a child but rose to international fame – literally – when she starred in the 1980 movie “Fame” as Coco Hernandez, a high schooler aiming for success in the arts and entertainment industry. She sang the movie’s title song as well as “Flashdance … What a Feeling,” the title song for the 1983 film “Flashdance.” Cara died at her home in Largo, Florida, in November. The cause was not made public. Photo credit: HFPA Archive
Zuri Craig, 44
Singer, actor
Washington, D.C., native Craig and his singing partner, Jeffrey Lewis, were a hit when they finished fifth on TV’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2015. Craig went on to take part in multiple Tyler Perry projects. Craig, who lived in metro Atlanta, died October 24. The cause and location were not made public.
Merri Dee, 85
News broadcaster
Merri Dee was born Mary Francine Dorham in Chicago, Illinois. She worked 43 years in radio and TV, and was an anchor/reporter and later community relations director for WGN-TV in Chicago for 30 years. She also helped raise millions for college scholarships as host of “Annual Evening of Stars.” Dee died peacefully in her sleep on March 16 in Chicago. Photo credit: Jason Miccolo Johnson
José Eduardo dos Santos, 79
Former president of Angola
Dos Santos was born in Luanda, Angola, He was president of Angola from 1979 to 2017 and had been instrumental in ending Portugal’s colonial rule over the African county. Dos Santos also had been accused of corruption. He died July 8 in Barcelona, Spain, after a long illness. Photo credit: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil
Lamont Dozier, 81
Motown singer, songwriter, music producer
Detroit, Michigan-born Lamont Dozier partnered with brothers Brian and Eddie Holland to write dozens of Motown hits, including “Baby Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes, and “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas. He died August 8 at his home near Scottsdale, Arizona. The cause was not made public. Photo credit: Phil Konstantin
Shonka Dukureh, 44
Actress, singer
Dukureh, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, played Big Mama Thornton in the “Elvis” biopic about the life of Elvis Presley. She also was a highly praised gospel artist in the Nashville, Tennessee, area. Dukureh was found dead at her apartment in Nashville on July 21. The cause was high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. Photo credit: Kane Skennar/Warner Brothers
Jaylon Ferguson, 26
NFL athlete
Ferguson, who was born in Zachary, Louisiana, played three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens after being drafted out of Louisiana Tach. He died June 21 at his Baltimore home from the combined effects of fentanyl and cocaine. A medical examiner ruled the death was accidental. Photo credit: Bobak Ha'Eri
Clarence Gilyard, 66
Professor, actor, director, author
Gilyard was born in Moses Lake, Washington, and was known for his roles in the 1988 movie “Die Hard” and TV’s “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Later in life, Gilyard taught film and theater as a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He died November 28 after a long illness at his home in Las Vegas. Photo credit: St. Mary’s Catholic Church - Park City, Utah
Veronica Yvette Greenfield (Ronnie Spector), 78
Singer, cofounder of The Ronettes
Veronica Yvette Greenfield (center), also known as Ronnie Spector, was a native of East Harlem, New York. She fronted and formed the girl group The Ronettes with her sister, Estelle Bennett, and cousin, Nedra Talley, in the 1950s. Their hits included “Be My Baby.” She died January 12 in Danbury, Connecticut, after a brief battle with cancer. Photo credit: General Artists Corporation, James Kriegsmann
Lani Guinier, 71
Race scholar, Harvard Law School professor
Guinier was born in New York City and graduated from Harvard University and Yale Law School. In 1993, President Clinton nominated her for assistant attorney general but he withdrew the nomination after a Republican backlash. Guinier believed American government schools of thought were not enough to advance true equality and democracy. Guinier later became Bennett Boskey professor of law at Harvard Law School. She died Jan. 7 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Photo credit: Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard staff photographer
Franco Harris, 72
NFL athlete
Franco Harris was a native of Fort Dix, New Jersey. He became a star running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He died days before the 50th anniversary of his famous catch known as the “Immaculate Reception,” one of the most memorable moments in NFL history. President Biden noted that Harris was among Steelers who cheered up his sons after a 1972 car crash killed Biden’s daughter and first wife. Harris died December 20 at his home in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. The cause was not made public. Photo credit: Eric Reichbaum
Dwayne Haskins, 24
NFL athlete
Haskins was born in Highland Park, New Jersey, and played football for Ohio State University before being drafted into the National Football League. He played three seasons as a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. On April 9, Haskins was attempting to flag down vehicles on a highway near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after his own vehicle ran out of fuel. A dump truck struck and killed him. Photo credit:
Artis Leon Ivey Jr. (Coolio), 59
The artist known as Coolio was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Compton, California. He was best known for “Gangsta’s Paradise,” a playful 1995 rap backdropped by music borrowed from Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise.” Coolio died September 28 in Los Angeles, California. The cause of death was not made public.
Max Julien, 88
Actor, filmmaker, sculptor, clothes designer
Maxwell Julien Banks was born in Washington, D.C. He was probably most known for his role as Goldie, a pimp who takes on corrupt police and drug dealers, in the 1973 cult classic “The Mack.” Julien also was considered one of the most important filmmakers of his time. Julien died New Year’s Day in Sherman Oaks, California. The cause was not made public. Photo credit: Clint Fisher
Cheslie Kryst, 30
TV correspondent, lawyer, Miss USA 2019
Cheslie Kryst was born in Jackson, Michigan. The high school track star earned an MBA and a law degree and was crowned Miss USA in 2019. She was an Emmy-nominated correspondent for TV’s “Extra” when she took her own life January 30 by jumping from her New York City apartment building. Photo credits: High Point University
Bob Lanier, 73
NBA athlete
Robert Lanier Jr. was born in Buffalo, New York. He was a center for the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks. In 1992, Lanier was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He died May 10 in Phoenix, Arizona, after a short illness. Photo credit: Anthony Lattanzio
Ramsey Lewis, 87
Jazz pianist, composer, radio personality
Ramsey Lewis Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois. He collected five gold records and three Grammy awards over the course of his career. He is probably best known for his 1965 album “The In Crowd” and his 1974 single “Sun Goddess,” recorded with Earth, Wind & Fire. Lewis died September 12 in Chicago of natural causes. Photo credit: David Zilberberg
Autherine Lucy, 92
First Black student to attend the University of Alabama
Autherine Lucy was born in Shiloh, Alabama. She was the daughter of farmers and was always very smart. Lucy was the focus of national news in 1956, when she became the first Black student admitted to the University of Alabama. Her tenure there was violent and hate-filled – white students chased her and threw rotten eggs at her, sometimes sending her to hide in closets. She was expelled later that year, prompting university President Oliver Carmichael to resign. Lucy died March 2 at home in Lipscomb, Alabama. The cause was not made public. Photo credit: Library of Congress
Jo Mersa Marley, 31
Reggae artist
Joseph “Jo Mersa” Marley, the grandson of late reggae legend Bob Marley and son of reggae artist Stephen Marley, was born in Jamaica. A music artist in his own right, he released his first EP, “Comfortable,” in 2014. Marley was found dead inside his parked vehicle in Miami, Florida, on December 26. The cause was being investigated. Photo credit: Steve Galli
Charles McGee,102
Tuskegee Airman
Brigadier General Charles McGee was born in Cleveland, Ohio. After learning that the U.S. Army was allowing Black people to train as combat pilots, he enlisted. McGhee joined the Tuskegee Airmen in 1943. He died January 16 in Bethesda, Maryland. The cause was not made public. Photo credit: Charles McGee, Shealah Craighead
Roger Mosley, 83
Actor, director, writer
Roger Mosley was born in Los Angeles, California. He was most known for his portrayal of helicopter pilot Theodore “T.C.” Calvin in TV’s “Magnum P.I.” in the 1980s. Mosley died August 7 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a car crash that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. Photo credit: CBS Network
Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele), 82
Soccer legend
The legendary soccer player the world came to know as Pele was born in Tres Coracoes, Brazil. He grew up kicking a sock stuffed with newspapers before being introduced to the world at a World Cup match in Sweden when he was 17. The athlete known as “The King'' was so loved that civil war factions in Nigeria agreed to a brief cease-fire in 1967 so he could play. Pele died December 29 of colon cancer at a hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo credit: AFP
Nichelle Nichols, 89
Grace Dell Nichols, also known as Nichelle Nichols, was born in Robbins, Illinois. She is best known for playing Lt. Nyota Uhura in the cult TV phenomenon “Star Trek” in the 1960s and its film sequels. The role made Nichols one of the first Black women to claim a leading role in a TV series. She later worked with NASA to recruit people of color for the space program. Nichols died July 30 in Silver City, New Mexico, of congestive heart failure. Photo credit: Mr. Holga
Odalis Perez, 44
Former Major League Baseball pitcher
Odalis Perez was born in Las Matas de Farfan in the Dominican Republic. In 1998, he made his Major League Baseball debut with the Atlanta Braves and also spent his 10-year career playing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals. Perez died March 10 after an accident at his home in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
Dorothy Pittman Hughes, 84
Activist, feminist, child welfare advocate
Dorothy Pitman Hughes was born in Lumpkin, Georgia. Her activism brought critical Black issues to the forefront and she worked with fellow feminist Gloria Steinem to address feminist issues throughout the country. Hughes died December 1 in Tampa, Florida. The cause was old age. Photo credit: Clint Spaulding/
Sidney Poitier, 94
Sidney Poitier considered himself a native of Cat Island in the Bahamas though he was born in Miami, Florida, during a family visit. He became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award - for his work in the movie “Lilies of the Field.” His work in additional films such as “To Sir With Love” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” helped elevate him to icon status. Poitier died of heart failure January 6 at his home in Los Angeles, California. Photo credits: Friedman - Abeles, New York;
LePreston Porter III (Snootie Wild), 36
LePreston Porter III, also known as Snootie Wild, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He is best known for his song “Yayo.” He died February 26 of a gunshot wound in Houston. Police made an arrest in the incident in December. Photo credit: Brandon Dull
Bill Russell 88,
NBA legend, civil rights activist
Bill Russell was born in West Monroe, Louisiana. He led the Boston Celtics to 11 championships and was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1975. On the civil rights front, he took part in the 1963 March on Washington and also traveled to Mississippi to help open a basketball camp after the murder of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers. In 2011, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Russell died July 31 on Mercer Island, Washington. The cause was not made public.
Ferrell Lee Sanders (Pharoah Sanders), 81
Jazz saxophonist
Ferrell Lee Sanders, known professionally as Pharoah Sanders, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. He learned music at home from his grandfather and played clarinet and then saxophone. His best known piece of work was “The Creator Has a Master Plan.” In the 1960s, he played alongside the late John Coltrane. Sanders died September 24 in Los Angeles, California. The cause was not made public. Photo credit:
Bernard Shaw, 82
The Chicago, Illinois-born Bernard Shaw was CNN’s first chief anchor and was with the network from the beginning, when it launched in 1980. During his career, he reported on the First Gulf War, the 2000 presidential election and the 1989 student revolt in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. Shaw died September 7 of pneumonia at a hospital in Washington, D.C.
Rev. Charles Sherrod, 85
Minister, civil rights activist
Rev. Charles Sherrod was a native of Surry, Virginia. Sherrod helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960. When he took an assignment in Albany, Georgia, he decided to stay, creating one of the country’s most sizable and successful cooperative farms. Sherrod died October 11 in Albany of lung cancer. Photo credit: Nathan L. Hanks Jr.
Paul Silas, 79
NBA athlete, head coach
Paul Silas was born in Prescott, Arizona. The two-time NBA All-Star and three-time champion was known for rebounding and defense and played for five NBA franchises. SIlas also was president of the NBA Players Association and was LeBron James’ first NBA coach. Silas died December 10 at his home in Denver, North Carolina, of cardiac arrest. Photo credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Andre Leon Talley, 73
Fashion journalist, stylist, actor
Andre Leon Talley was a native of Washington, D.C., who rose through the ranks of fashion journalism to become part of the masthead at Vogue. Talley’s career started with an unpaid apprenticeship with the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He worked at The New York Times before becoming the first Black editor-at-large of Vogue. He died of a heart attack in White Plains, New York, on Photo credit: stevetw103
Rayfield Wright, 76
NFL athlete
Larry Rayfield Wright was born in Griffin, Georgia, and was most known for his performance as an offensive tackle with the Dallas Cowboys. He once recalled that as a Boy Scout, he memorized the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” and it made him realize he had choices. Offensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys nicknamed the Big Cat. In 2006, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He died April 7 in Willow Park, Texas. The cause was not made public. Photo credit: ISM Fort Worth.