The following are 12 personalities and/or public figures (some more familiar than others) that have passed on in the past several weeks. Most recent deaths are shown at the top. Note: some deaths are not reported for days, even weeks. That is why some obit updates do not appear on the top. Once again, obits are listed in order of date of death, most recent date on top.
The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, died at his home in North Carolina. He was 99. Graham, long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments More than anyone else, Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the United States. His leadership summits and crusades in more than 185 countries and territories forged powerful global links among conservative Christians, and threw a lifeline to believers in the communist-controlled Eastern bloc. Dubbed "America's pastor," he was a confidant to U.S. presidents from Gen. Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush.In 1983, President Reagan gave Graham the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor. When the Billy Graham Museum and Library was dedicated in 2007 in Charlotte, former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton attended. "When he prays with you in the Oval Office or upstairs in the White House, you feel he's praying for you, not the president," Clinton said at the ceremony. Graham once said, "I have been asked, 'What is the secret?'" Graham had said of his preaching. "Is it showmanship, organization or what? The secret of my work is God. I would be nothing without him."
Bug-eyed comedian Marty Allen, who as part of the Allen & Rossi comedy team was a television staple during the 1960s and 1970s, has died in Las Vegas. He was 95 and died from complications of pneumonia. Allen's bushy black hair, somewhat wild persona, and catchphrase "Hello dere" became part of American comedy lore in the days when the Rat Pack ruled Las Vegas. Allen was part of the comedy duo of Allen & Rossi, and they shared a stage with a Who's Who of show biz of that generation, including Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Elvis Presley. Allen & Rossi appeared 44 times on The Ed Sullivan Show, including on the episodes where the Beatles performed. Partner Steve Rossi died in 2014. "Everyone remembers those shows with the Beatles, and they were great, but we appeared on all the shows," Allen said in 2014. "There wasn't a talk show on TV that didn't want Allen & Rossi." Beyond Sullivan, the duo were regulars on The Tonight Show and The Merv Griffin Show, and were staples on the casino and nightclub circuit. The duo had an amicable breakup in 1968, but Allen was just getting started. He was a Hollywood Squares regular, and later did some drama roles in daytime television and in made-for-TV movies. He also maintained a solo career that stretched into his '90s, as a new generation grew to love his old-school humor. Allen was born in Pittsburgh and earned a Soldier's Medal for valor in World War II.
Legendary crooner Vic Damone passed away at the age of 89. Damone, whose smooth baritone led Frank Sinatra to famously declare he "had the best pipes in the business," died at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla. Damone starred in several television series, including "The Vic Damone Show" on NBC, and hit movies including "Kismet" and "Rich, Young and Pretty," but the singer did not consider himself a true crossover star. "I never thought of myself that way," Damone wrote in his memoir. "That wasn't my particular gift. My gift was singing." Best known for hits "You're Breaking My Heart" and "On the Street Where You Live," with over 2,500 recordings under his belt, Damone was part of the golden age of lounge singers who came to fame after World War II, including Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin and Perry Como. Damone's first big break came at the age of 14, with Como's help. Damone was forced to drop out of high school and take a job as an usher at the Paramount Theater in New York City, where he bumped into Como in an elevator. Damone stopped the elevator between floors and started singing. He asked Como on whether he should continue voice lessons and Como said simply, "Keep singing!" Fate intervened for Damone again in the summer of 1946, when Sinatra was playing poker at a friend's Manhattan apartment, and one of Sinatra's classics, "Night and Day," came on the radio. Sinatra was astounded when the singer turned out to be Damone, live in the studio. Sinatra phoned the radio station and told Damone: "This is Frank Sinatra, and I want you to stop singing my songs." Months later, Sinatra ended up introducing Damone at a charity fundraiser in Madison Square Garden.
Reg E. Cathey, the Emmy-winning House of Cards actor who also was admired for his work on The Wire and Oz, has died at the age of 59. The Alabama-born, Germany-raised, Yale School of Drama-educated actor with a potent and sonorous voice became a mainstay of the HBO drama world, playing drug-addicted Scalio on David Simon's 2000 miniseries The Corner and controversial prison administrator Martin Querns on Oz before reuniting with Simon to play newspaper editor-turned-political operative Norman Wilson on The Wire. He was back on HBO last year in the Oprah Winfrey movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack. But he also earned plenty of raves on House of Cards as proud rib maestro Freddy Hayes, whose BBQ restaurant served as refuge for Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood, and who would go on to work at the White House as a groundskeeper. Cathey scored three guest Emmy nominations for the role, coming home with the trophy in 2015. Cathey also starred in the first two seasons of Robert Kirkman's Cinemax horror series Outcast, and recently popped up on such shows as Inside Amy Schumer, The Blacklist, and Horace and Pete. His TV résumé includes roles on The Good Wife, Grimm, Banshee, and Law & Order: SVU, and he first made his mark in the medium on the late-80s PBS kids' show Square One Television. On the big screen, he has appeared in movies such as What About Bob?, Seven, Tank Girl, The Mask, S.W.A.T, The Machinist, and 2015's Fantastic Four.
John Gavin, the movie star who graced the big screen in "Psycho," "Imitation of Life" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" has died at age 86 after a long illness. TMZ claimed Gavin succumbed to complications from pneumonia after battling leukemia. He was reportedly first hospitalized just days before Christmas before he later passed away surrounded by his family in his Beverly Hills home. The tall, strikingly handsome entertainer had led a decades-long career in Hollywood. He won a Golden Globe for 1958's "A Time to Love and a Time to Die," appeared alongside blonde bombshell Lana Turner in 1959's "Imitation of Life" and starred as Julius Caesar in 1960's "Spartacus" with Kirk Douglas, among others. He famously played Janet Leigh's divorced lover Sam Loomis in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock thriller "Psycho." The Hollywood Reporter claimed Gavin was signed on to play James Bond in 1971's "Diamonds Are Forever" before Sean Connery reclaimed the role of the suave superspy. President Ronald Reagan appointed Gavin as Mexico's ambassador in 1981, a country he already had ties with. His father had invested in the country's mines, and ancestors of his Mexican-born mother had been among California's first Spanish settlers. Gavin had often visited Mexico in his youth and was fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Director William Friedkin tweeted, "A sad day, my great friend John Gavin died This morning. One of the finest men I knew And like a brother to me. May he Rest In Peace."
Mickey Jones, rock drummer who became a popular character actor, died after a long illness at the age of 76. The bearded Jones would often play a biker or criminal type in movies and television shows. Jones portrayed marijuana dealer Rodney 'Hot Rod' Dunham on the FX series "Justified." He had a recurring role as Pete Bilker on the sitcom "Home Improvement." He also appeared on "Flo," "Entourage," and "Lizzie McGuire." On the big screen, he had roles in "Tin Cup," "Sling Blade," and "National Lampoon's Vacation." Jones was born in Houston, Texas. In high school, he took up the drums. He became the drummer in Trini Lopez's backing band. He then left Lopez to drum for singer Johnny Rivers. In 1966, Dylan asked Jones to join his backing band for his tour of Europe and Australia. Jones played with most of the musicians who would later become The Band. After Dylan, he became the drummer for the band The First Edition, with lead singer Kenny Rogers. Their hit songs included "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." After The First Edition broke up in 1976, Jones turned to acting full time. In 2009, Jones published his autobiography "That Would Be Me", the title was the catchphrase often used by his character on "Home Improvement."
John Mahoney, of "Frasier" fame, died in Chicago. He was 77. Mahoney, who starred as Martin Crane on the hit NBC sitcom for more than 10 years, reportedly passed away in hospice care, according to his publicist. Born in England, Mahoney most recently appeared in an episode of British television drama "Foyle's War" in 2015, and joined the cast of TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland" from 2011 until 2014. Before his more than 30 years in the entertainment industry, the two-time Golden Globe nominee moved to the U.S. after World War II, as he told the Chicago Tribune "It was so bleak and dark in England" and "so sunny" in America. He served in the U.S. Army for three years before becoming a U.S. citizen and receiving a bachelor's degree from Quincy College in Illinois. In 1986, Mahoney won a Tony Award for best featured actor in a play for his work in "The House of Blue Leaves," and in 2000 won a Screen Actors Guild award for performance by an ensemble in a comedy series for his work on "Frasier." (Update) Mahoney died of a slew of health woes, including brain disease and cancer. The beloved sitcom dad's official cause of death includes brain disease, lung cancer and seizures, TMZ reports. Mahoney starred on "Frasier" as Martin Crane, the father of Kelsey Grammer's eponymous star and David Hyde Pierce's Niles Crane. His decades-long career also included notable roles in films like "Say Anything" and "Eight Men Out."
One of the leading members of the American vocal group the Temptations died of complications from meningitis. He was 74. Edwards was the voice behind such Temptations classics as "Cloud Nine, "I Can't Get Next to You," and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." He died in a Chicago hospital, two days before his 75th birthday. Edwards joined the group in 1968 at the height of the civil rights movement. Over the years he was in and out of the group through various incarnations, scoring such hits as "Runaway Child, Running Wild," "Psychedelic Shack," and "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World is Today)." For a short time, he was married to Ruth Pointer of 'Pointer Sisters fame, and had one daughter with her. Before joining the Temptations, Edwards sang with another Motown group, the Contours, best known for their 1962 hit "Do You Love Me" (recorded before he joined them). The Contours opened for the Temptations in the late 1960s, and when the Temptations' lead singer David Ruffin left the group in 1968, he was asked to take over. Ruffin told him personally that he was going to get the job, showing up at his house very early in the morning, Mr. Edwards said. "I thought he was kidding," he said. Shortly after Edwards joined the group, the Temptations won their first Grammy, for the propulsive, upbeat "Cloud Nine" (1968); they won another for the funk anthem "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (1971). That song, like two other Temptations hits from that period, "I Can't Get Next to You" and "Just My Imagination" (on which Kendricks sang lead), reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart. The group received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2013.
Robert Dowdell, the versatile actor who had supporting roles on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Stoney Burke, two ABC series of the 1960s, died of natural causes in Coldwater, Michigan. He was 85. On 109 episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea from 1964-68, Dowdell portrayed Chip Morton, the lieutenant commander on the submarine Seaview under the command of Adm. Harriman Nelson (Richard Basehart). The series was created by Irwin Allen, based on his 1961 movie of the same name. The filmmaker later would cast Dowdell in another underwater adventure, City Beneath the Sea (1971), and on the TV series Land of the Giants and in the 1986 CBS telefilm Outrage. Stoney Burke ran for 32 episodes in the 1962-63 season. It featured future Hawaii Five-O star Jack Lord in the title role as a rodeo rider, with Dowdell as his sidekick, Cody Bristol, who follows him around the rodeo circuit. (Bruce Dern and Warren Oates also were regulars on the show.) Dowdell received $750 a week for his role. Dowdell polished his skills under noted acting coach Wynn Handman. His subsequent theater appearances included Love Me Little opposite Susan Kohner; Viva Madison Avenue! with Buddy Hackett; Five Finger Exercise opposite Jessica Tandy (with direction by John Gielgud); and The Midnight Sun, helmed by John Frankenheimer, who later cast Dowdell in the 1960 telefilm Fifth Column opposite Richard Burton and Maximilian Schell. The actor also popped up on the 1950s anthology series Studio One in Hollywood and Buick-Electra Playhouse and on shows including Moment of Fear, Adam-12, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and CHiPs.
Known for her role in Roots and the miniseries Backstairs at the White House, Olivia Cole died at her home in San Miguel Allende, Mexico on January 19, Deadline has confirmed. She was 75. The New York Times said she died from a heart attack. She starred opposite Ben Vereen's Chicken George as his wife Mathilda in the groundbreaking ABC 1977 miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley's novel. The miniseries won her an Emmy for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Drama Series. She also received an Emmy nomination for her role in the aforementioned Backstairs at the White House, where she appeared as Maggie Rogers, the mother of Leslie Uggams' Lillian Rogers Parks. The characters were real-life women who worked as maids in the White House for decades. Cole also starred opposite Oprah Winfrey in the 1989 ABC miniseries The Women of Brewster Place and on the short-lived series that followed. Her other TV and film credits include Coming Home, Some Kind of Hero with Richard Pryor, Go Tell It on the Mountain, First Sunday, Guiding Light, L.A. Law, Szysznyk, and Murder, She Wrote. Cole was married to actor Richard Venture who died in December. The two met while starring in a play at the Arena Stage in Washington. They divorced after 1982 and she lived in Mexico for nearly 30 years.
Dorothy Malone, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her performance in 1956's Written on the Wind and starred as matriarch Constance MacKenzie on 1960s TV series Peyton Place, died in Dallas of natural causes. She was 92. Malone began her decades-long career in 1943 with small roles in films such as Frank Sinatra musicals Higher and Higher (1943) and Step Lively (1944), and Show Business (1944) with Eddie Cantor and George Murphy. She began to get bigger roles in the 1950s, leading to her most praised film performance as boozed-up nymphomaniac Marylee Hadley in 1956's Written on the Wind, a role for which she earned a best supporting actress Oscar. Her other films included 1957's Man of a Thousand Faces, in which she played the unsympathetic first wife of James Cagney's Lon Chaney Sr, and as alcoholic actress Diana Barrymore in the biographic melodrama Too Much, Too Soon (1958). She segued to television in the 1960s, with perhaps her most memorable role as over-protective single mother Constance MacKenzie in primetime soap Peyton Place, which ran from 1964-1968. Her other TV credits included ABC's circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth, starring Jack Palance, TV movies Murder in Peyton Place (1977) and Peyton Place: The Next Generation (1985), and a featured role in the 1976 miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man. Her final film credit was a cameo in the 1992 thriller Basic Instinct as a friend to Sharon Stone.
Actor Bradford Dillman, who starred as Edmund in the original Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night and had an impressive film and TV career, died in Santa Barbara, CA. He was 87 and suffered complications from pneumonia. Dillman was also known as the co-star with Dean Stockwell in the 1959 crime drama Compulsion. He was Robert Redford's best friend in 1973's The Way We Were, and also appeared in the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry series, playing in The Enforcer (1976) and Sudden Impact (1983). He also had a major role in 1973's The Iceman Cometh, playing Willie Oban in an adaptation directed by John Frankenheimer for the American Film Theater. Following Long Day's Journey Into Night and a later role in Katharine Cornell's Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning There Shall Be No Night, Dillman signed to 20th Century Fox. He appeared in the 1958 films A Certain Smile and In Love and War, scoring a Golden Globe for most promising newcomer - male in 1959. In addition to his many film roles, Dillman became a TV staple in the 1960s and 1970s. He had a recurring role on the drama Dr. Kildare and starred with Peter Graves in the short-lived series Court Martial. He also appeared on such shows as The Name of the Game; The Wild, Wild West; Mission: Impossible; The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; Columbo; Ironside; Barnaby Jones; and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.