Ossie Davis, actor, playwright, producer, activist, and husband to actress Ruby Dee, was 87 when he died in February from natural causes. Wrote poet Haki Madhubuti in his tribute to Davis: "His art fed us, allowing us to grow and, yes, finally appreciate his greatness and his genius. He was, indeed, our golden trumpeter; clear, resolute, unafraid, athletic, Blackself-loving, articulate and, above all, always in tune and ahead of his time."
Attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. died at the age of 67. The great grandson of slaves, Cochran wrote in his 2003 book, A Lawyer's Life, that the work of Thurgood Marshall, the lead attorney for Brown v. Board of Education, became his inspiration for pursuing a legal career.
Dr. Kenneth Bancroft Clark, social psychologist, renowned educator and principal architect of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies as a resource for Black elected officials, died of cancer on May 1. He was 90. Clark is perhaps best known for his research on the psychological effects of racial discrimination that became a cornerstone in the Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. Along with his wife, Mamie Phipps Clark, he used dolls as a means to assess the impact of a separate-but-equal society on African-American children, and produced findings that compelled the Supreme Court to rule against segregation.
Harold Cruse, renowned social critic, essayist, professor and a former director of the University of Michigan's Center for Afro-American and African Studies, died March 25 in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was 89. Considered to be one of the leading Black public intellectuals of the 20th century, Cruse was best known for his book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual He was first named program director of Michigan's Center for Afro-American and African Studies (CAAS) in 1969, then acting director in 1971 and director from 1972-1973. Reportedly, he was one of the first African-Americans without a college degree to get tenure at a major university.
Clarence "Big House" Gaines, legendary former Winston-Salem State University men's basketball coach and director of athletics, died April 18. He was 81. Gaines' 47-year legacy of contribution to WSSU included 828 wins, eight Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association conference championships and a national title. Gaines finished his coaching career in 1993 as the second all-time winningest coach, and today is ranked fifth in that category.
Oscar Brown Jr., a poet, actor, playwright, singer, song-writer-composer, director and musician, died May 29. Writes Haki Madhubuti, who paid tribute to him earlier this year, "If ever there was a man who embodied all of the qualities of a conscientious and responsible Black artist, it was Oscar Brown Jr. The man was talented, multidimensional, literate to the bone, Black/African-centered, culturally focused and politically active. …