Some of the prominent individuals we lost this year:
James Deanes, 66, retired Chicago Public Schools official and Austin resident/community activist. Deanes is remembered as a reformer within CPS and one of the architects of Local School Councils. He retired from CPS in 2013.
Maya Angelou, 86, poet, filmmaker, author and activist. Her renowned poems include “Phenomenal Woman,” which was featured in John Singleton’s film Poetic Justice (1993), which Angelou also had a role in. She directed her first film, the critically-acclaimed drama Down In The Delta, in 1998. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.
Jane Byrne, 81, former mayor of Chicago and the city’s first and only female mayor. She served one term, winning in 1979 after beating incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic, whose administration was blamed for not adequately clearing streets quickly after a blizzard.
Frankie Knuckles, 59, a pioneer in Chicago’s house music scene and sound of the late 1970s and early ’80s. His remixes of music from various genres helped establish the techno dance music craze in the years that followed.
“Mama” Brenda Matthews, 55, poet, actor, singer and activist. The Chicago native was known for her stirring spoken word pieces and recordings. She was also known for her community activism, as well as mentoring of youth and aspiring poets.
Tony Gwynn, 54, Hall of Fame Major Leaguer with the San Diego Padres, where he spent his entire 20-year career. He compiled 3,141 hits with a batting average of .338 during his career, which included 15 All-Star appearances.
Henry Jackson, a.k.a Big Bank Hank, 57, member of pioneering hip hop group The Sugar Hill Gang. Along with bandmates Wonder Mike and Master Gee, the group’s hit song, “Rapper’s Delight” was the first rap single to chart in the music industry, helping to usher in the hop hip era. Their other songs included “Apache” and “8th Wonder.”
Ruby Dee, 91, actor and civil rights activist. Her career spanned more than 50 years, including in film, on television and radio, and the stage. She acted in many projects with her husband, Ossie Davis, including Do The Right Thing (1989).
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, 76, middleweight boxer, who spent 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Carter was wrongly-convicted of a triple murder in 1966. In 1985, a federal judge ruled that Carter and John Artis, who was with Carter on the night of the shootings, did not receive fair trials and released them.
Winfred “Blue” Lovett and Edward “Sonny” Bivins, members of vocal group, The Manhattans. Lovett, 74, was the group’s bass singer and songwriter. Bivins, 78, co-founded the group in 1962. The group’s hit songs include “Shining Star” (1980) and “Kiss and Say Goodbye” (1976).
Amiri Baraka, 79, poet, author and essayist. Born Everett LeRoi Jones, Baraka’s career spanned 50 years.
Geoffrey Holder, 84, actor, dancer and voice-over artist. Known for his tall stature (6 feet, 6 inches), his deep baritone voice and his native Trinidadian accent, Holder’s career began in 1955 with New York’s Metropolitan Opera Ballet. He would also later work in television and on film, including the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973), and 1992 Eddie Murphy picture Boomerang.