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A Look Back At The Celebrities Who Died In 2021

Remembering some of the people in the public eye who died this year.

Last updated on December 31, 2021, at 4:16 p.m. ET

Posted on December 30, 2021, at 1:23 p.m. ET

2021 was a mix of ups and downs: leaving the house and then staying inside again, vaccines and variants. The year took a lot from us, as the pandemic continued and the number of people who died from COVID in the US alone surpassed 800,000 in December. Among those who have died in the past 12 months were some well-known figures, including Virgil Abloh and Michael K. Williams.

Here's a look back at just a few of those in the public eye who died this year.

Virgil Abloh, designer and artistic director, 41

Virgil Abloh in a hat and plaid shorts
Alexander Tamargo

Abloh in Miami in 2014

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, 99

Prince Philip smiling in a suit and tie
Wpa Pool / Getty Images

Prince Philip in 2017

Betty White, the actor who rose to fame on the Golden Girls, 99

Matt Sayles / Associated Press

White in June, 2010.

Willie Garson, actor, 57

Willie Garson in a suit in front of a wall that reads the Elton John AIDS foundation
John Sciulli / Getty Images for Neuro Brands

Garson in February 2020

Norm MacDonald, comedian and actor, 61

Norm Macdonald at a microphone in a leather jacket
Kevin Winter / Getty Images

MacDonald performing in Los Angeles in 2004

Michael K. Williams, actor, 54

Michael K Williams on a plain background looking at the camera in a turtleneck
Larry Busacca / Getty Images

Michael K. Williams on Jan. 23, 2012, in Park City, Utah.

Christopher Plummer, actor, 91

Christopher Plummer in a tuxedo looking past a mirror backstage at a broadway show
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Canadian actor Christopher Plummer backstage before a performance on Broadway, New York City, in 1955

Biz Markie, rapper, actor, and record producer, 57

Biz Markie on a street with two chains making a face for the camera
David Corio / Getty Images

Biz Markie in London in 1988

Robert Downey Sr., actor, 85

Robert Downey Sr in a suit looking at the camera
Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images

Downey Sr. poses for photos during "An Evening With Robert Downey Sr." at Film Forum on May 20, 2016, in New York City.

Clarence Williams III, actor, 81

Clarence Williams, Peggy Lipton, and a third actor on a paisley background
Abc Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Williams (left) in a press photo with his coworkers on the television show The Mod Squad

Alber Elbaz, fashion designer, 59

Alber Elbaz walks on a runway under a giant light-up Lanvin sign
Dominique Charriau / WireImage

Elbaz greets the crowd during the Lanvin show in Paris on Oct. 1, 2015.

Cloris Leachman, actor and comedian, 94

Cloris Leachman in a large necklace on a red carpet
Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images

Leachman on June 9, 2016, in Hollywood

DMX, rapper, 50

DMX performs on stage, crossing his arms over his head and holding a microphone
Kevin Winter

DMX in 2016

Jessica Walter, actor, 80

Jessica Walter in a paisley dress leaning out of a bus
Dove / Getty Images

Jessica Walter circa the 1960s

Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio talk show host, 70

Rush Limbaugh in front of a photo of himself gesturing and with his mouth open in front of a microphone
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Limbaugh in Michigan in 2007

Janet Malcolm, writer and journalist, 86

janet malcolm in a suit carrying a scarf on a street
George Nikitin / AP

The New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm leaves the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco on June 3, 1993.

Dustin Diamond, actor, 44

Dustin Diamond in a black suit with a goatee looking past the camera
Frank Micelotta Archive / Getty Images

Diamond in New York in 2002

Sophie, musician and activist, 34

Sophie in a pink haze on stage performing
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images for Coachella

Sophie at Coachella in 2019

Cicely Tyson, actor, 96

Cicely Tyson in cornrows and a turtleneck smiling at the camera
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Tyson in 1973

Larry King, journalist and television host, 87

Larry King at his desk holding a piece of paper and talking into his microphone
Steve Granitz / WireImage

Larry King on Larry King Live circa 2003

Joan Didion, writer, 87

Joan Didion in a robe sitting at a table with her hands pressed together
Henry Clarke/Condé Nast/Shutterstock

Didion in California circa 1970s

Phil Spector, pop producer jailed for murder, 81

Phil Spector in between two lawyers in court looks at the camera
Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Spector looks at the camera for only a moment before the verdict of guilty is read in the case of People v. Phil Spector in downtown Los Angeles on April 13, 2009.

Hank Aaron, professional baseball player and activist, 86

Hank Aaron in his Braves 44 jersey with a glove under one arm
AP

Aaron of the Atlanta Braves in March 1967

Beverly Cleary, writer, 104

Beverly Cleary on a couch resting her head on her hands
San Francisco Chronicle / Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Cleary at home in Carmel Valley, California, on April 27, 2006

Colin Powell, politician and Army officer, 84

Colin Powell in uniform testifying in congress in front of a microphone
Mark Reinstein / Getty Images

Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell prepares to testify at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on Desert Storm troop deployments on Sept. 11, 1990.

bell hooks, author, professor, and activist, 69

bell hooks seated and looking at the camera
Karjean Levine / Getty Images

Author and cultural critic bell hooks on Dec. 16, 1996, in New York City

Stephen Sondheim, composer and songwriter, 91

Elizabeth Taylor singing while looking at music with Stephen Sondheim next to her
Graham Morris / Getty Images

Sondheim with Elizabeth Taylor at a Wembley studio in August 1976. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for the film Taylor was starring in.

Eric Carle, children's book author and illustrator, 91

Eric Carle with a paintbrush and paint with someone holding up a framed illustration behind him
Boston Globe via Getty Images

Carle with some of the materials he uses to create the art for his books. Carle poses in a gallery of the Eric Carle Museum in Massachusetts in 2002.





A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.