The sudden death of television journalist Tim Russert at age 58 was a painful reminder to baby boomers, who are now mostly in their 50's, that there are no guarantees about reaching age 60. Here is a list of 50 famous Americans who died while still in their 50's.
During the 1980s, Berry battled drug addiction and alcoholism. He revived the character of Rerun in the series What's Happening Now!!, but would only be on that show for 1 year.
Berry died on October 21, 2003 at his Los Angeles home where he was recovering from a stroke. He was 52.
In early 1991, Bixby was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent treatment for the disease. On November 21, 1993, six days after his final assignment on the television series Blossom, Bixby died of complications from cancer in Century City, California. He was 59.
Bonds was noted for his outstanding combination of power hitting and speed, he was the first player to have more than two seasons of 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, doing so a record five times (the record was matched only by his son Barry Bonds), and was the first to accomplish the feat in both major leagues; he became the second player to hit 300 career home runs and steal 300 bases, joining Willie Mays. Together with Barry, he is part of baseball's most accomplished father-son combination, holding the record for combined home runs, RBIs, and stolen bases.
Bonds died of complications from lung cancer and a brain tumor in San Carlos, California. He was 57.
Bogart's most notable films include The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Key Largo (1948), and The African Queen (1951) (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor).
Bogart, a heavy smoker, contracted cancer of the esophagus. Bogart had just turned 57 and weighed 80 pounds (36 kg) when he died on January 14, 1957 after falling into a coma.
She also played the role as housekeeper Nell Harper on the sitcom Gimme a Break!, for which she earned Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations. The popular show lasted from 1981 to 1987.
Carter died from heart disease complicated by diabetes and obesity on January 23, 2003. She was 54 years old. At the time of her death, Carter had been rehearsing for a production of Raisin, a stage musical of A Raisin in the Sun in Long Beach, California, and filming a movie, Swing.
Davenport took part in his first Olympics in 1964, reaching the semi-finals of the 110 m hurdles event. In Mexico, in 1968, he reached the final and won: "From the first step, the gun, I knew I had won the race." In 1972 he finished fourth, and in his fourth consecutive Olympic 110 m hurdles final, in 1976, he finished third to capture the bronze medal.
He died of a heart attack at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on June 17, 2002. He was 59.
Davis died on October 6, 2007 at her home in Gloucester, Virginia. She was reportedly recovering from a second bout with breast cancer, but her condition deteriorated rapidly over the previous week. She was 57 at the time of her death.
An advocate of method acting, Dennis was often described as neurotic and mannered in her performances; her signature style included running words together and oddly stopping and starting sentences, suddenly going up and down octaves as she spoke, and fluttering her hands. Walter Kerr famously remarked that she treated sentences as "weak, injured things" that needed to be slowly helped "across the street.
Dennis died from ovarian cancer in Westport, Connecticut, aged 54.
On October 12, 1997, Denver was killed when the EZ Lite aircraft he was piloting crashed just off the coast of California at Pacific Grove, shortly after taking off from the Monterey Peninsula Airport.
Fixx started running in 1967 at age 35. He weighed 240 pounds (108.8 kilograms) and smoked two packs of cigarettes per day. Ten years later, when his book, The Complete Book of Running (which spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the best-seller list) was published, he was 60 pounds lighter and smoke-free.
The book inspired millions of people to take up running and jogging. In his books and on television talk shows, he extolled the benefits of physical exercise and how it considerably increased the average human being's life expectancy.
Ironically Fixx died at the age of 52 of a massive heart attack, after his daily run, on Route 15 in Hardwick, Vermont. The autopsy revealed that atherosclerosis had blocked one coronary artery 95%, a second 85%, and a third 50%.
His major claim to fame is becoming one of the pivotal figures in the sport's labor history when he refused to accept a trade following the 1969 season, ultimately appealing his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although his legal challenge was unsuccessful, it brought about additional solidarity among players as they fought against baseball's reserve clause and sought free agency.
For years a heavy drinker and smoker, Flood stopped smoking in 1979, and drinking in 1985. Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1995, Flood was originally given a 90% chance of survival. But the chemotherapy proved too much for him, and Flood died in Los Angeles, California at age 59.
The Innocent Age, released in October 1981, was Fogelberg's critical and commercial peak. This double album song cycle included four of his biggest hits: "Leader of the Band," "Hard To Say," "Run for the Roses", and "Same Old Lang Syne," based on a real-life accidental meeting with a former girlfriend (Jill Anderson). In 1984, he rocked a little again with the album Windows And Walls.
After battling prostate cancer for three years, Fogelberg died on December 16, 2007 at his home in Maine with his wife Jean by his side. He was 56.
His most famous role was Rhett Butler in the 1939 epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for three films that included, Gone with the Wind (1939), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935); he won for It Happened One Night (1934). Another memorable performance was his last film The Misfits (1961), co-starring Marilyn Monroe. It was also her last film.
Gable died in Los Angeles, California on November 16, 1960, the result of a fourth heart attack. He was 59.
One of the original founders of the Grateful Dead, Garcia performed with the Dead for its entire three-decade career (which spanned from 1965 to 1995).
On August 9, 1995, at 4:23 AM, Garcia's body was discovered in his room at a rehabilitation clinic. The cause of death was a heart attack. Garcia had long struggled with tobacco, drug addiction, weight problems, and sleep apnea, all of which contributed to his physical decline. He was 53 when he died.
On September 18, 2002, Hayes died in his hometown Jacksonville of kidney failure aged 59, after battling prostate cancer and liver ailments.
Hines appeared in such movies as The Cotton Club, White Nights, Running Scared, and Tap. On television, he starred in his own series in 1997 called The Gregory Hines Show, as well as in the recurring role of Ben Doucette on Will & Grace. He won the Tony Award for the revue Jelly's Last Jam (1992).
Hines died of liver cancer in Los Angeles, California at age 57.
In 1973 he appeared in director George Lucas' second feature film, American Graffiti, as himself. His broadcasts tie the film together, and a main character catches a glimpse of the mysterious Wolfman in a pivotal scene. In gratitude for Wolfman Jack's participation, Lucas gave him a fraction of a "point" -- the division of the profits from a film -- and the massive financial success of American Graffiti provided him with a regular income for life.
Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack in Belvidere, North Carolina, on July 1, 1995, age 57. The day before his death, he had finished broadcasting his last live radio program, a weekly program nationally syndicated from Planet Hollywood in downtown Washington, D.C. Wolfman Jack said that night, "I can't wait to get home and give Lou a hug, I haven't missed her this much in years." Wolfman had been on the road, promoting his new autobiography Have Mercy!. When he got home, he entered his house, hugged his wife, said "Oh, it is so good to be home!", and died in his wife's arms.
On the morning of August 6, 2004, Rick James was found dead in his Burbank, California home at the Oakwoods on Barham Boulevard by his caretaker. James had died from pulmonary failure and cardiac failure with his various health conditions of diabetes, stroke, a pacemaker, and according to the Internet Movie Database, a heart attack being listed as contributing factors. Minimal traces of cocaine were found in his bloodstream.
A coroner's report released September 16, 2004 officially ruled his death as accidental, reporting nine drugs found in James's bloodstream.
Jobs reinvented the technology world four or five times, first with the Apple II, a beautiful personal computer in the 1970s; then in the 1980s with the Macintosh, driven by a mouse and presenting a clean screen that made computing inviting; the ubiquitous iPod debuted in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and in 2010 the iPad.
During a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, he said: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
Jobs had died at age 56 due to pancreatic cancer.
On February 22, 2007, at the Austin Convention Center, Johnson had a heart attack and collapsed at the end of the Austin Toros' practice. After being rushed to a nearby hospital, he could not be revived and was later pronounced dead.
In 1973, Jordan began to suffer from multiple sclerosis. She had difficulty climbing stairs, and she started using a cane and eventually a wheelchair. She fought a 20-year struggle against debilitating illnesses, including multiple sclerosis and leukemia, which took her life at the age of 59.
Jordan was a lesbian with a longtime companion of more than 20 years, Nancy Earl. Jordan never publicly acknowledged her sexual orientation, but in her obituary, the Houston Chronicle mentioned her longtime relationship with Earl.
Kahn was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in early 1999. She underwent treatment and continued to work, even continuing her role on Cosby. However, the disease progressed rapidly, and on December 3, 1999, Kahn died at the age of 57.
On September 13, 1982, while driving with her daughter Stéphanie to Monaco from their country home, Princess Grace, then 52, suffered a stroke, which caused her to drive her Rover P6 off the serpentine road down a mountainside. Princess Grace was pulled alive from the wreckage, but had suffered serious injuries and was unconscious. She died the following day at The Princess Grace Hospital Centre, having never regained consciousness.
After his playing career ended, Lau taught his hitting technique to the Orioles, Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox as a hitting instructor. He wrote the book How to Hit .300, which supplanted Ted Williams's The Science of Hitting as the "Bible of Batting."
He died in Key Biscayne, Florida at the age of 50 after a long bout with cancer.
In 2000, LeDoux suffered an illness that required him to receive a liver transplant. Garth Brooks volunteered to donate part of his liver, but it was found to be incompatible. An alternative donor was located, and LeDoux did receive a transplant. After his recovery he released two additional albums. LeDoux died on March 9, 2005 of complications from liver cancer.
Linda Lovelace (January 10, 1949 – April 22, 2002), real name Linda Susan Boreman, became famous after starring in the 1972 hardcore porn film Deep Throat. She later became a spokeswoman for the anti-pornography movement.
Boreman contracted hepatitis from the blood transfusion in 1970 as a result of a car accident. In 1987, this required her to undergo a liver transplant.
On April 3, 2002, Boreman lost control of her car, which rolled twice. She suffered massive trauma and internal injuries. On April 22, 2002 she was taken off life support and died in Denver, Colorado, aged 53.
On August 13, 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down after stage lighting equipment fell on him at an outdoor concert at Wingate Field in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. In February, 1998, he had to have his right leg amputated due to diabetes. Mayfield died on December 26, 1999 in Roswell, Georgia surrounded by his family.
The comedian suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but he had said the condition went into remission in 2005. Mac, age 50, died at a hospital in the Chicago area of complications due to pneumonia.
On March 12, 2003, McGraw was working as a spring training instructor for the Phillies when he was hospitalized with a brain tumor. When surgery was performed to remove it, it revealed the tumor was malignant and inoperable. Given three weeks to live by doctors, he managed to survive nine months.
He was age 59 at his death.
Steve McQueen (March 24, 1930 – November 7, 1980) was an Academy Award-nominated American movie actor, nicknamed "The King of Cool". His "anti-hero" persona, which he developed at the height of the Vietnam counterculture, made him one of the top box-office draws of the 1960s and 1970s. After appearing in the 1974 film The Towering Inferno, he became the highest paid movie star in the world. He was also an avid racer of both motorcycles and cars.
McQueen died at the age of 50 in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico from two heart attacks caused by blood clots following a seven-hour operation to remove or reduce a metastatic tumor in his stomach. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 1979, and had traveled to Mexico in July 1980 for unconventional treatment after his doctors advised him that they could do nothing more to prolong his life.
A lifelong cigarette smoker, Miller died of lung and throat cancer in 1992 at age 56.
June died at 1:10pm on April 11, 2006 at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California from bone cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer. She died in the arms of her older sisters and brothers Ruth, Anita, Aaron, and Fritz. She was 52 years old.
Darrell Porter (January 17, 1952 – August 5, 2002) was a former American catcher in Major League Baseball, and one of the first American professional athletes to publicly admit he had a problem with substance abuse.
He played in three World Series, in 1980 with the Royals and in 1982 and 1985 with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the World Series MVP Award in 1982.
On August 5, 2002, Porter left home, saying he was going to buy a newspaper and go to the park. He was found dead in Sugar Creek, Missouri, outside his vehicle that evening. An autopsy said he had died of "toxic effects of cocaine"; the level of cocaine in his system, consistent with recreational use, induced a condition called excited delirium that caused his heart to stop. He was 50.
His biggest hits were "I Love a Rainy Night" (Pop #1), "Drivin' My Life Away" (Pop #5), and "Step By Step" (Pop #5), which were hits for him in 1981. In 1981, he also won an American Music Award for Best Pop Male Vocalist.
On May 7, 1998, Rabbitt died of lung cancer at the age of 56, and is interred in the Calvary Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. Although during his career he was widely believed to have been born in 1944, at the time of his death, it was revealed that he was in fact 56 years old, putting his year of birth in 1941.
On September 15, 2004, Cummings died in his Los Angeles home after a five year battle with prostate cancer; Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and Rob Zombie were at his side when he died.
On May 27 1995, Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in an accident during the cross country portion of an Eventing competition. He was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
In early October 2004, he was being treated for a pressure wound that was causing a systemic infection called sepsis, a complication that he had experienced many times before. On October 9, Reeve felt well and attended his son Will's hockey game. That night, he went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for the infection. He fell into a coma and was taken to North Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. Eighteen hours later, on October 10, 2004, Reeve died of heart failure at the age of 52. His doctor, John McDonald, believed that it was an adverse reaction to the antibiotic that caused his death.
On September 11, 2003, Ritter fell ill while rehearsing scenes for an episode of 8 Simple Rules. He was taken across the street to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where he died less than an hour later, at the age of 54, in the same hospital in which he was born. The cause of death was an aortic dissection caused by a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
Charles Rocket (August 24, 1949 – October 7, 2005) was an American film and television actor, notable for his tenure as a cast member on Saturday Night Live as well as for his appearances as the villain Nicholas Andre in the film Dumb & Dumber and Adam, the Angel of Death, in the series Touched by an Angel.
Rocket was found dead in a field near his Connecticut home on October 7, 2005; his throat had been cut. He was 56 years old. The state medical examiner later ruled the death a suicide.
In 1998, Siskel underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. He died from complications of the surgery.
She left acting for several years in order to live with rock musician Neil Young and care for their son Zeke, who was born with cerebral palsy, but returned in 1978 in The Fury. She and Neil Young split up about 1975. Sylvester Stallone said she was the first choice for Adrian in the movie Rocky, but she passed on the role.
She was hospitalized awaiting a liver transplant when she died suddenly at age 57 of heart and liver failure in Los Angeles, California.
He died following a heart attack in a Los Angeles hospital on December 16, 2005, four days before his 59th birthday. West Wing cast mate Stockard Channing was visiting him at the time of his death.
On April 5, 2007, Stingley died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after being discovered unresponsive in his home. His death was attributed to heart disease and pneumonia complicated by quadriplegia. The Cook County Medical Examiner listed Stingley's cause of death as an accident.
Conway Twitty (September 1, 1933 – June 5, 1993), born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, was one of the United States' most successful country music artists of the 20th century.
He had the most singles (55) reach Number 1 on various national music charts. Up until George Strait broke the record for most number 1s on the Billboard country chart with 43, Twitty had 42 (counting his pop number 1 with "It's Only Make Believe", and a B-sided country single). Most commonly thought of as a country music singer, he also enjoyed success in early Rock and Roll, R&B, and Pop music (among others).
Conway Twitty became ill while performing in Branson, Missouri, and was in pain while he was on the tour bus. He died June 5, 1993 in Springfield Missouri at Cox South Hospital from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was 59.
In 1996, Urich announced that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, synovial cell sarcoma, that attacks joints. Urich ultimately died from this disease, although he continued to appear in film and TV during treatment. His final TV series role was in the sitcom Emeril in 2001.
Vandross had diabetes, a disease that ran in his family, as well as hypertension. On April 16, 2003, just four days before his 52nd birthday, Vandross suffered a stroke in his home in Manhattan. Vandross died on July 1, 2005 at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey at the age of 54. The cause of his death was never publicly released.
Jim Varney (June 15, 1949 – February 10, 2000) was an American actor. He was best known for his character Ernest P. Worrell, originally created by Nashville advertising agency Carden and Cherry in the 1980s. The character was used in numerous television commercial campaigns and movies in the following years, giving him fame worldwide. He is best known for his slapstick style and his portrayal of "redneck" stereotypes in a friendly, approachable way.
Varney died peacefully in his sleep of lung cancer on February 10, 2000 at 4:45 a.m. in his White House, Tennessee home as his movie Ernest the Pirate neared completion. He was 50.
A multiple Grammy Award-winner known for his deep bass voice and romantic image, White's greatest success came in the 1970s with the Love Unlimited Orchestra, crafting many enduring hit soul and disco songs. Worldwide, White had many gold and platinum albums and singles, with combined sales of over 100 million.
Chart hits by White include "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up" (1973), "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" (1974), and "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" (1974).
White had been ill with chronically high blood pressure for some time, which resulted in kidney failure in the autumn of 2002. He suffered a stroke in May 2003, after which he was forced to retire from public life. On July 4, 2003, he died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from renal failure. He was 58.
Tammy Wynette (May 5, 1942 - April 6, 1998) was an American country music singer-songwriter and one of country music's best-known artists and biggest-selling female vocalists. She was known as the "First Lady of Country Music" and one of her best-known songs, "Stand by Your Man," was one of the biggest selling hit singles by a woman in the history of the country music genre.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, she dominated the country charts, scoring 17 number one hits. Along with Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Barbara Mandrell she defined the role of female country vocalists in the 1970s. Her 1969 marriage to legendary country singer, George Jones (which would end in divorce in 1975) created the first country music couple.
After years of medical problems, numerous hospitalizations, approximately twenty-six major surgeries and an addiction to large doses of pain medication, Tammy Wynette died, in her sleep, on April 6, 1998 of a pulmonary blood clot. She was 55.
In 1991, Zappa was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. After his diagnosis, he devoted most of his energy to modern orchestral and synclavier works. Frank Zappa died on December 4, 1993, age 52, from prostate cancer.
In interviews, Zevon described a lifelong phobia of doctors and said he seldom received medical assessment. In 2002, after a long period of untreated illness and pain, Zevon was encouraged by his dentist to see a physician; when he did so he was diagnosed with inoperable mesothelioma (a form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, and also the same cancer that killed Steve McQueen).
Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003, aged 56, at his home in Los Angeles, California.
Biographical info mostly came from Wikipedia.
Victor French (December 4, 1934 - June 15, 1989) was an actor and director. He is most widely known for costarring with Michael Landon on two television series: Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven. A life-long heavy smoker, he died of lung cancer. He was 54.
Marvin Gaye (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was singer-songwriter, composer, musician, and record producer. Gaye was shot dead by his father on April 1, 1984. He was 54.
Bart Giamatti (April 4, 1938 – September 1, 1989) was the President of Yale University, and later, the seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Died suddenly of a massive heart attack just eight days after banishing Rose and 154 days into his tenure as commissioner. He was 51.
John Hughes, Jr. (February 18, 1950 – August 6, 2009) was an American film director, producer and writer. Hughes died suddenly of a heart attack while walking in Manhattan, where he was visiting his family. He was 59.
Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American recording artist, entertainer and businessman. He collapsed and died due to a cardiac arrest while at his rented home in Los Angeles, CA. He was 50.
Yolanda King (November 17, 1955 – May 15, 2007) was the first-born child of Coretta Scott King and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Born in Montgomery, Alabama to Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King. Yolanda King was a human rights activist and actress.
On May 15, 2007, King died at age 51 in Santa Monica, California. Her family has speculated that her death was caused by a heart attack.
Billy Mays (July 20, 1958 – June 28, 2009) was an American television pitchman. A heart attack, while he was at home in bed, was the primary cause of his death. And cocaine was listed as a "contributory cause of death." He was 50.
Doug McLure (May 11, 1935 – February 5, 1995) was an American actor. Best know for his role as Trampas in the NBC western series The Virginian. He died from lung cancer. He was 59.
Lee Remick (December 14, 1935 – July 2, 1991) was an American film and television actress. Remick died at her home in Los Angeles of kidney and liver cancer. She was 55.
Babe Ruth (February 6, 1895 – August 16, 1948) was an American Major League baseball player from 1914–1935. He died from pneumonia due to Naso-pharyngeal cancer. He was 53.
Dwight White (July 30, 1949 – June 6, 2008) was an American defensive end in the National Football League (NFL) who played with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1971 to 1980 and was a member of the famed Steel Curtain defense. Dwight White died of complications that arose from an earlier surgery. A blood clot in his lung, the complication from back surgery, is the suspected cause of death. He was 58.