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Here Are Some Of Those Who Died In 2020

A look back at those who died this year.

Posted on December 31, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. ET

This horrible year did give us some good things: Dolly Parton as a world savior, two vaccines, all of the cardboard dogs in the audience at the 2020 National Dog Show.

But it also took a lot from us — and in terrifying, previously unfathomable ways.

In 2020, quite a few people to whom we often turned when things were bad and we needed cheering up in our own lives died, from Alex Trebek of Jeopardy to Chadwick Boseman of Black Panther.

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

Chadwick Boseman, actor, 43

Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images

Boseman at the London premiere of Black Panther

Christo, artist and sculptor, 84

Man in denim jacket in a field with blue umbrellas behind him
Kurita Kaku / Getty Images

The installation The Umbrellas in Japan in October 1991

Eddie Van Halen, musician and songwriter, 65

Man playing electric guitar on stage with bright lights
Koh Hasebe / Shinko Music / Getty Images

Van Halen striking a pose at a concert in Tokyo, June 1978

Alex Trebek, game show host, 80

Trebek on blue background looking off to side of the camera
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Trebek, circa 1984


Ellis Marsalis, jazz pianist and educator, 85

Man at a piano on stage with a crowd behind him
David Redfern / Getty Images

Marsalis at the New Orleans Jazz Festival


Phyllis Lyon, author and lesbian rights activist, 95

Two older women in their living room with a pride flag in the background
Deanne Fitzmaurice / Getty Images

Lyon (right) and her wife Del Martin in their home in San Francisco in 2008. Lyon and Martin were the first couple to be married when same-sex couples were granted the right to marry in California. They had been together since 1952.

Kelly Preston, actor, 57

Preston holding on to the arm of John Travolta
The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

John Travolta and Kelly Preston, who were married for 28 years before her death from breast cancer

Joseph Lowery, minister and leader in the civil rights movement, 98

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Many prominent civil rights activists cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a reenactment of the Selma to Montgomery march on the 20th anniversary in 1985. Civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson, Joseph Lowery (fourth from right), and John Lewis lead the march.

Grant Imahara, electrical engineer and cohost of MythBusters, 49

Man testing out a bamboo blowpipe in a workshop
Fresno Bee / Getty Images

Imahara tests his bamboo blowpipe in preparation for the upcoming ninja myth segment for the cable television show MythBusters in 2008.

Diego Maradona, professional soccer player, 60

Man on a field about to kick a soccer ball
Ullstein Bild / Getty Images

Maradona in action at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico

Malik B. (also known as Malik Abdul Basit), rapper, singer, and a founding member of the Roots, 47

The three members of the Roots outside, looking at the camera, wearing t-shirts and jeans
T. Eric Monroe

The original Roots crew, including Malik B. (left), photographed in New York in 1994

John Lewis, politician and civil rights activist, 80

Robert Elfstrom / Getty Images

Close-up of Lewis, then chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in an office, New York, 1964

Sean Connery, actor and James Bond star, 90

Sean Connery leaning on a car in a suit
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Scottish actor Sean Connery on the set of Goldfinger

Ja'Net Dubois, actor and singer-songwriter, 74

Woman in a purple sweater looking and smiling at camera
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Ja'Net Dubois, circa 1975

John Prine, country and folk music singer-songwriter, 73

Prine on stage with bright lights on him holding a guitar
Paul Natkin / Getty Images

Prine performs on stage in Chicago in 1985.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice, 87

Ginsburg in robes and in front of a bookcase
Bettmann / Getty Images

Portrait of Ginsburg in her chambers in 1977

Kobe and Gianna Bryant, basketball superstar and daughter, 41 and 13

Kobe Bryant holding his daughter Gianna  and laughing with her as she looks up at him
Elsa / Getty Images

Bryant and his daughter Gianna warming up on the court during the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto in 2016.

Fred Willard, actor and comedian, 86

Fred Willard in a shirt and tie in front of televisions on the Ron Burgundy set
Cbs Photo Archive / Getty Images

Willard in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Chi Chi DeVayne, American drag queen and reality television personality, 34

Chi Chi DeVayne smiling at the camera in a sparkly dress and with full makeup
Santiago Felipe / Getty Images

Chi Chi DeVayne at RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8 Premiere in 2016 in New York City.


Olivia de Havilland, actor and Gone With the Wind star, 104

De Havilland in a full dress on a staircase
Sunset Boulevard

De Havilland on the set of the 1939 movie Gone With the Wind

Kenny Rogers, singer-songwriter, 81

Rogers in a velvet suit singing into a microphone on stage with lights behind him
David Redfern / Redferns

Rogers performing onstage in 1978

Naya Rivera, actor, singer, and model, 33

Rich Polk / WireImage

Rivera in 2013. The actor had her breakthrough in Glee playing cheerleader Santana Lopez.

Katherine Johnson, NASA administrator whose involvement in the space race was told in Hidden Figures, 101

A woman in glasses and a short sleeve suit at a desk with paper, typewriter
Getty Images

Johnson poses for a portrait at work at NASA Langley Research Center in 1966.

Irrfan Khan, actor, 53

Khan in a black suit seated at a table, staring at the camera
Taylor Jewell / Shutterstock

Khan in 2018

Jerry Stiller, comedian and actor, 92

Man with curly hair and a checked suit smiling at camera
Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Stiller in 1975 at the Longacre Theatre in New York City

C.T. Vivian, early civil rights organizer, 95

Barack Obama awarding C.T. Vivian an award in front of an American flag
Jacquelyn Martin / AP

President Barack Obama awards minister and civil rights activist Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 at the White House.

Betty Wright, soul and R&B singer-songwriter, 66

A woman with long earrings, braids, and her hair done up, with her shoulders bare
Gilles Petard / Redferns

Wright in a studio portrait in 1973


John le Carré (pen name of David John Moore Cornwell), spy novel author, 89

Le Carré, an older man with white hair, posing for the camera
Bob Riha Jr / Getty Images

Le Carré in Los Angeles in 1996.

Helen Reddy, singer, songwriter, and activist, 78

Reddy in a halter top singing on stage looking at the audience
Tony Russell / Getty Images

Reddy in 1975

Roy Horn, one half of entertainment duo Siegfried & Roy, 75

Two men seated outside, one man has a small white tiger on his lap that he is holding up for the camera
Aaron Rapoport / Getty Images

Siegfried Fischbacher (left) and Roy Horn in 1997

Bill Withers, singer-songwriter and musician, 81

Withers with his hands clasped in front of a studio backdrop
Anthony Barboza / Getty Images

Studio portrait of Withers in New York in 1971

Regis Philbin, TV anchor and game show host, 88

Philbin in a trench coat with a microphone during a parade
Walt Disney Television Photo Arc / ABC

Philbin as host during the 1981 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Anthony Chisholm, film and stage actor, 77

Chisholm in a fedora and jacket playing chess outdoors in NYC
Everett Collection

Chisholm in Wu-Tang: An American Saga

Hosni Mubarak, former Egyptian president and autocrat, 91

Mubarak looking grim as people salute him
David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images

Mubarak arriving at Orly airport in 1986 for an official visit to France

Little Richard, musician, singer, and songwriter, 87

Little Richard on stage performing under pink lights
CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images

Little Richard performing in 2009

James Lipton, host of Inside the Actors Studio, 93

Lipton alone among many empty seats in a theater
Jean-Christian Bourcart / Getty Images

Lipton poses in the Actors Studio on Nov. 15, 2002, in New York City.


Herman Cain, business executive and Republican politician, 74

Cain onstage among stars, gesturing as he speaks
Steve Pope / Getty Images

Then–potential GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, the former chair and CEO of Godfather's Pizza, speaks in Iowa in 2011.

Conchata Ferrell, actor, 77

Ferrell with curly hair looking at the camera
Getty Images

Ferrell from L.A. Law

Nick Cordero, actor and Broadway star, 41

Cordero on a dark stage, looking off to the right
Walter Mcbride / Getty Images

Cordero at the Broadway after-party for Waitress on April 24, 2016, in New York City

Honor Blackman, actor, 94

Honor Blackman in a vest on a movie set
Getty Images

Blackman in 1964

This story is part of our series on the year 2020. To read more, click here.

Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images


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