2019: In Memoriam


John Lyle, a World War II fighter pilot and a Tuskegee Airman, died Jan. 7 at age 98.

Kevin Barnett, an actor and comedian, died Jan. 22 of complications from pancreatitis at age 32.

James Ingram, the Grammy-winning singer who graced the R&B and pop charts in the 1980s and 1990s, died Jan. 29 at age 66.


Kristoff St. John, an actor best known for playing Neil Winters on the CBS soap opera “The Young and the Restless,” died Feb. 4 from heart disease at age 52.

Frank Robinson, the Hall of Fame baseball star who was the first Black manager in Major League Baseball history, died Feb. 7 at age 83.

Jackie Shane, a Black transgender soul singer who became a pioneering musician in Toronto where she packed nightclubs in the 1960s, died Feb. 21 at age 78.


Nipsey Hussle, a Grammy-nominated rapper, was killed in a March 31 shooting in Los Angeles at age 33.


John Singleton, the famed filmmaker whose 1991 landmark film “Boyz N the Hood” earned him the first-ever Oscar nomination for a Black director, died April 29 of complications from a stroke at age 51.


Leon Redbone, a blues and jazz artist known for his growly voice and Panama hat, died May 30 at age 69.

Patricia Bath, a pioneering ophthalmologist who became the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent after she invented a more precise treatment for cataracts, died May 30 at age 76. (Photo)


Leah Chase, a New Orleans chef and civil rights icon who created the city’s first white-tablecloth restaurant for Black patrons, broke the city’s segregation laws by seating white and Black customers, and introduced countless tourists to Southern Louisiana Creole cooking, died June 1 at 96.

Bushwick Bill, the diminutive member of famed rap group The Geto Boys, died June 9 at the age of 52. He had recently been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.


Art Neville, a member of one of New Orleans’ storied Neville Brothers and a founder of the groundbreaking funk band The Meters, died July 22 at age 81.

Boxing legend Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker died July 14 at age 55 after being hit by a car in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Phil Freelon, an architect and co-designer of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, died July 9 after a battle with ALS.


Toni Morrison, the literary giant who was the first Black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize for her novel “Beloved” and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, died Aug. 5 at age 88.


Jessye Norman, the pioneering Black soprano opera singer, died Sept. 30 at age 74.

LaShawn Daniels, a Grammy-winning songwriter who often appeared on the reality show “Tamar & Vince,” died Sept. 3. at age 41.


Rep. Elijah Cummings, the venerable Democrat and champion of civil rights who was a fixture in Maryland and national politics for decades, died Oct. 17 at age 68.

John Conyers, a Democratic congressman from Michigan who served more than 50 years on Capitol Hill and was the longest-serving Black representative in U.S. history, died Oct. 27 at age 90.

Willie Brown, an NFL Hall of Famer and Oakland Raiders cornerback, died Oct. 22 at age 78.

John Witherspoon, a veteran actor and comedian best known for starring as Mr. Jones in the “Friday” movie franchise and voicing Gramps on “The Boondocks,” died Oct. 29 at age 77.

Diahann Carroll, the elegant star of stage and screen who was the first African American woman to be cast as a professional rather than a domestic worker in the 1968 groundbreaking sitcom “Julia,” died of cancer Oct. 4 at age 84.


Edna Smith Primus, who won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in 1978 that broadened free speech rights for nonprofit attorneys and earned her a revered spot in legal history, died Nov. 29 at age 75.

Barbara Hillary, the first Black woman on record to reach the North and South poles, died Nov. 23 at age 88.

Charles Rogers, former Michigan State All-American and Detroit Lions wide receiver, died Nov. 11 at age 38 from cancer.

Bernard J. Tyson, whose 30-year career with Kaiser Permanente led to him rising in the ranks to become the CEO in 2013, died Nov. 10 at age 60.

Ernest Gaines, who wrote novels that dealt with racial issues and discrimination in his native Louisiana, died Nov. 5 at age 86.


Juice WRLD, 21, a rapper who launched his career on SoundCloud before becoming a streaming juggernaut, died Dec. 8 after being treated for opioid use during a police search.

Dorothy Rowley – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I knew I had to become a writer when at age nine I scribbled a note to my younger brother’s teacher saying I thought she was being too hard on him in class. Well, the teacher immediately contacted my mother, and with tears in her eyes, profusely apologized. Of course, my embarrassed mother dealt with me – but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my passion for words and writing. Nowadays, as a “semi-retiree,” I continue to work for the Washington Informer as a staff writer. Aside from that, I keep busy creating quirky videos for YouTube, participating in an actor’s guild and being part of my church’s praise dance team and adult choir. I’m a regular fixture at the gym, and I like to take long road trips that have included fun-filled treks to Miami, Florida and Jackson, Mississippi. I’m poised to take to the road again in early 2017, headed for New Orleans, Louisiana. This proud grandmother of two – who absolutely adores interior decorating – did her undergraduate studies at Virginia Union University and graduate work at Virginia State University.

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