By NewsOne Staff
While death is inevitably a part of life, that truth doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to those who have died. We commemorate some of the notable Black folks who have died in 2020 is meant to pay homage to their contributions in life that will live on well after their deaths.
Bishop Harry Jackson, an evangelical pastor who advised Donald Trump as a candidate and president, died Nov. 9. His cause of death was not immediately reported and it was unclear what his age was. The Washington Post described the senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, in part as “a rare Trump supporter in the majority Black, Democratic stronghold of Prince George’s County.”
Jackson joined Trump in April to deliver an Easter blessing that was heavily focused on the coronavirus pandemic. He thanked Trump for his “insightful leadership” before going on to pray for “a mitigation of this plague, this disease. Let medical science come forth.” He closed his prayer by asking God to “give this great man, our President, and give the Vice President wisdom beyond their natural limitations. Give them insights so they can cover us, lead us, and bless us.”
Prior to that, the sports world suffered back to back blows when baseball icon Lou Brock died Sept. 6 just about a week after college basketball coaching legend John Thompson‘s death. Brock was 81-years old. ESPN reminded readers that “Brock retired in 1979 as the single-season and all-time leader in stolen bases” and “was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1985.”
Thompson died Aug. 31 at the age of 78. He first started coaching high school before Georgetown University hired him in 1972, ultimately going on to become the first Black head coach to win an NCAA championship when Georgetown beat the University of Houston in 1985. Read more about his life here.
Days earlier, actor Chadwick Boseman died after a years long battle with colon cancer. He died Aug. 28 at the age of 43.
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has died following a brief battle with the coronavirus. He died July 30 at the age of 74. Cain, who was also the former chair of the Kansas City Federal Reserve as well as the one-time chief executive of the Godfather’s Pizza chain, was a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump. He may have contracted the coronavirus after attending a heavily attended rally for Trump without wearing a mask.
Cain’s death occurred on the same day that Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the iconic civil rights pioneer who went on to become one of the most powerful men in Congress, was being buried in Atlanta. Lewis died on July 17 at the age of 80 following a battle with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that he announced late last year. You can read more about his legendary life by clicking here.
Jas Waters, a television writer also known as “JasFly” who penned scripts for hit shows like “This Is Us,” has died, according to reports. She was just 39 years old. Waters’ death was confirmed by the verified Twitter account for “This Is Us,” which tweeted on June 10 that “The entire #ThisIsUs family was devastated to learn of Jas Waters passing. In our time together, Jas left her mark on us and ALL over the show. She was a brilliant storyteller and a force of nature. We send our deepest sympathies to her loved ones. She was one of us. RIP.”
Waters’ cause of death was not announced.
Wes Unseld, the venerable NBA Hall of Fame player who was the star on the Washington Bullets’ only championship team has died. The Washington Wizards announced that Unseld died June 2 “surrounded by family following lengthy health battles, most recently pneumonia.” Unseld was 74-years old.
Read the full statement below.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, a former longtime butler who worked in the White House, died following complications from the coronavirus. He was 91 years old. Jerman served 11 presidents, including Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black commander-in-chief. Fox News reported that “Jerman worked at the White House from 1957 to 2012 as a cleaner, a doorman, and butler.”
Betty Wright, the award-winning R&B soul singer whose signature song went on to become a sampling standard in hip-hop music, died Sunday morning. She was 66 years old. Wright, whose cause of death was not immediately reported, had a career that spanned decades and evolved from its gospel roots to rhythm and blues to pop, the latter of which won her a pair of Grammy Awards.
As Bossip noted, Wright’s hit song from 1971, “Clean Up Woman,” has been sampled in music by contemporary artists ranging from Mary J Blige to Beyonce and still stands the test of time as a classic song in its own right.
Wright’s death came after several other celebrated members of the Black music community also recently died. Legendary rock n’ roll pioneer Little Richard died May 9 at the age of 87. The reports of his death followed that of iconic hip-hop executive Andre Harrell, who discovered Sean “Diddy” Combs. Harrell was 59 and died May 8.
Another of the most recent deaths reported was for legendary soul singer Bill Withers. He was 81-years old.
Some other notable Black folks who have died this year include the legendary NBA champion Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. The former Los Angeles Lakers star was just 41 years old. Emergency personnel responded to the accident, but there were no survivors. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was on the helicopter along with seven other people who all died, as well.
But there are others who died after living a full life of notable contributions to society, such as Katherine Johnson, the pioneering “Hidden Figures” NASA mathematician who died Feb. 24 at 101 years old. “She was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a tweet when announcing her death.
- Smith, the restaurateur, lifestyle maven and esteemed businesswoman, died in February, according to her husband,Dan Gasby, who announced the news of his wife’s passing in a Facebook post. “It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith,” he wrote. “B. died peacefully Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:50 pm, of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in our home in Long Island, New York. She was 70.”
Up-and-coming Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke, known for his record “Welcome To The Party” was shot and killed in Hollywood Hills on the morning of Feb. 19. The rapper was at a Hollywood Hills home that he may have been renting when at least four men were suspected of breaking into the property wearing hoodies and masks, according to law enforcement sources. Multiple fires were shot, striking and critically wounding the Brooklyn rapper. The men, who have not yet been identified, were seen fleeing the scene on foot. It is unclear Pop Smoke he knew his killers. However, it has been reported that there was a party or gathering at the home before the alleged home invasion took place.
Pop Smoke was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood, where he was pronounced dead. He was 20 years old.
Famed actress Ja’Net DuBois, who played the role of Willona Woods on “Good Times,” died Feb. 18 at the age of 74. DuBois reportedly unexpectedly died in her sleep while at her Glendale, California home.
The new year began tragically with the suspected drug overdose death on Jan. 1 of Nick Gordon, who was most famous for his relationship with Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown. He was only 30.
Scroll down to learn more about some of the other notable Black folks who have died this year.