As we begin the year 2016, the PRIDE would like to take a look back fondly at some of the people we lost during 2015. African American athletes, educators, entertainers, politicians, and others who touched our lives in a positive way will be missed and we honor their lives and contributions to society. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and it includes many local and some national figures, arranged chronologically by their passing dates.
Ed Brooke (October 26, 1919 – January 3, 2015). In 1966, as a Republican he became the first African American popularly elected to the United States Senate.
Peaches Manning – Willie ‘Peaches’ Manning, a longtime community liaison for the Metropolitan Development and Housing Association, died Saturday, January 3, 2015 at the age of 77. Manning began serving MDHA as a child development aide in 1977 and became resident association coordinator two years later. In her role, she managed resident associations at 19 public housing properties to promote a sense of community and neighborhood involvement among Nashvillians.
Stuart Scott (July 19, 1965 – January 4, 2015) was a sportscaster and anchor on ESPN, most notably on SportsCenter, well known for his hip-hop style and use of catchphrases such as “Hallah,” “As cool as the other side of the pillow,” and “Boo-Yah!”
Ernie Banks (January 31, 1931 – January 23, 2015) nicknamed “Mr. Cub” and “Mr. Sunshine” was a professional baseball player who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) regarded by some as one of the greatest players of all time.
Anthony Mason (December 14, 1966 – February 28, 2015) was a TSU collegiate and professional basketball player. In his 13-year NBA career he played with the New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets, and New York Knicks.
Percy Sledge, an important figure in Southern soul music, born November 25, 1941, died: April 14, 2015.
Ben E. King was the voice behind many of the Drifters biggest hits. Going solo in 1960, he scored several more times (most notably with the classic “Stand by Me.” born September 23, 1938, died: April 30, 2015.
Harriette Bias-Insignares died on May 10, 2015. a longtime professor at Tennessee State University and the first African American Poet Laureate/Ambassador of Letters for the State of Tennessee. An educator for more than 40 years, she taught English as a second language, rhetoric and public address, theatre and journalism.
B.B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015), Universally hailed as the reigning “King of the Blues,” was likely the single most important electric guitarist of the last half-century. Winner of 15 Grammy awards, as a touring musician he consistently logged between 200 and 300 shows a year. As of 2015, the Memphis (opened 1991), Nashville (which he opened in 2003), and Orlando (opened 2007) B.B. King’s Blues Clubs locations remain open.
Ornette Coleman (born March 9, 1930) was a saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer; one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s; died: June 11, 2015.
Bobbi Kristina Brown (March 4, 1993 – July 26, 2015) was a reality television and media personality, singer, and heiress. She was the daughter of singers Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston.
Wallace T. Dooley, Jr. (b. 1947 – July 21, 2015) Former Tennessee State University sports information director and associate athletic director for media relations at TSU, and longtime HBCU administrator. Dooley served as the associate commissioner of communications for the Southwestern Athletic Conference from 2001-2006. During his tenure, he helped the league transition into its football championship game.
Frances S. Guess (b. 1946 – July 23, 2915) was a businessman, civil rights advocate, and leading member of the business community in Nashville. Guess served as Commissioner of General Services for the State of Tennessee, served on the Tennessee Commission on Human Rights for more than 30 years, was the vice president of The Danner Company and the owner of the Helicopter Corporation of America.
Julian Bond was a social activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement, politician, professor, and writer. He was elected to four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and later to six terms in the Georgia State Senate, serving a combined twenty years in both legislative chambers. From 1998 to 2010, he was chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Born January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee, he died August 15, 2015, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
James A. Hefner (June 20, 1941 – August 27, 2015) was president of Tennessee State University from 1991 to 2005. Before serving as the president of Tennessee State University he served as president of Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. Earlier positions include provost of Tuskegee Institute, and professor of economics at Morehouse College.
Darryl Dawkins (born 11 January 1957) was a professional basketball player, most noted for his days with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, also died on August 27, 2015.
Moses Malone (March 23, 1955 – September 13, 2015) was a basketball player who played in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1974 through 1995. The center was named the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times and was a 12-time NBA All-Star and an eight-time All-NBA selection.
Allen Toussaint (January 14, 1938 – November 10, 2015) was a towering figure in the musical history of New Orleans. As a pianist, producer, arranger, songwriter, and A&R man, he had a hand in countless 1960s and ’70s hits.
Cynthia Robinson (January 12, 1944 – November 23, 2015) was a musician, best known for being the trumpeter and vocalist in Sly and the Family Stone.
Walter J. Leonard (Oct. 3, 1929 – December 8, 2015) drove the adoption of affirmative action admission policies at Harvard and is credited with increasing student body diversity at the University. As president of Fisk University from 1977 – 1983, perhaps his most awe-inspiring moment was in 1978, when Leonard used a $1.5 million insurance policy on his life as collateral to obtain a loan to keep the school from closing. Fisk was nearly bankrupt when Leonard assumed the presidency in 1977, and over the course of his seven year presidency, Leonard managed to raise more than $12 million dollars for Fisk.
“Meadowlark” Lemon (April 25, 1932 – December 27, 2015) was a basketball player, actor, and minister. For 22 years, Lemon was known as the “Clown Prince” of the touring Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.