2019 was a year of triumph. And tragedy. One of hope. And heartbreak. Before we embark on 2020, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s content curation desk is taking a look back at the biggest stories of 2019 and their effects on Georgia and the rest of the nation. Today’s topic: Notable deaths.
With deeply whimsical novels including “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye,” Toni Morrison made her mark in literature and earned her eventual role as “literary mother” to many. The Pulitzer Prize winner and first black woman to win the Nobel Prize told dramatic stories about the tireless fight for freedom and identity struggles within the black experience. She died Aug. 5.
A child actor and familiar face on Disney Channel, Cameron Boyce was best known for his role as the teenage son of Cruella de Vil in the Disney Channel franchise “Descendants.” The youthful star shared his personal life on social media, showing himself dancing, laughing and hanging out with family. He died July 6 after a fatal seizure.
Kathryn Johnson was a trailblazing reporter for The Associated Press whose integral coverage of the civil rights movement and other major stories gave her a name in journalism when few black women were present in newsrooms. She was trusted so greatly by the King family that she was the only journalist allowed in the King home after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. She died Oct. 23.
Cheery, blond actress Doris Day became a superstar in Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s, playing opposite other behemoth stars including Rock Hudson and Cary Grant. Her wholesome presence was featured in such classic films as “Calamity Jane” and “Pillow Talk.” In later years, she became known as an animal welfare activist. She died May 13.
Elijah Cummings, the son of sharecroppers, made it his life’s work to champion civil rights. The Maryland Democrat served as the representative for the 7th District for 23 years. Many consider his last arduous fight for justice to be leading an impeachment inquiry about President Donald Trump as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
He died Oct. 17 due to complications from long-standing health problems.
Luke Perry gained his status as a rustic heartthrob playing wealthy rebel Dylan McKay on “Beverly Hills, 90210” in the 1990s. He experienced a resurgence in his career while playing Fred Andrews on CW’s “Riverdale.” He died of a stroke March 4.
Nipsey Hussle, a Los Angeles rapper and philanthropist, had been making waves with his West Coast swagger and mixtapes for years, but it wasn’t until his last album “Victory Lap” that Hussle, born Ermias Davidson Asghedom, would receive a Grammy nomination. He was killed in a shooting March 31.
John Witherspoon was a comedic actor who served up laughs for decades. His catchphrases including “you’ve got to coordinate” became the source of memes and urban vernacular. He was known as black America’s favorite father figure for his roles in “Friday,” “Boondocks” and “The Wayans Bros.” He died Oct. 29.
In a year, Jeffrey Epstein became a topic of dozens of investigations and news stories due to his alleged sex trafficking of girls for several years. The Hollywood financier was arrested in July on those charges. Associates including Prince Andrew would be forced to disassociate themselves from the millionaire. The scandalous period ended with Epstein dying Aug. 13 in a New York jail cell. The death has been reported as an apparent suicide, but some have disputed that as fact.
Check out the other stories in our year-end project:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.