In memoriam: People we lost in 2022

OPINION: Sidney Poitier, Nichelle Nichols, Bill Russell, André Leon Talley and Irene Cara are among the many we lost this year. May they rest in power.

Sidney Poitier, left, (Getty Images); top left, Nichelle Nichols, (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images); top right, Bill Russell (Photo by Mansoor Ahmed/Getty Images); bottom left, André Leon Talley (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SCAD); bottom right, Irene Cara (Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images).

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

A lot of great people left us in 2022. As the year comes to a close, let’s give them one more salute for a life well lived. 

Max Julien. Died Jan 1. Age 88. Cardiopulmonary arrest. An actor who played Goldie in the iconic Blaxploitation classic, “The Mack.” 

Sidney Poitier. Died Jan. 6. Age 94. Heart failure. Hollywood’s first Black film star won an Oscar for best actor. His 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” changed the way many Americans viewed Black people. 

Lani Guinier. Died Jan. 7. Age 71. Complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Harvard Law School professor who was nominated by President Clinton to be assistant attorney general, a nomination that was eventually rescinded. The first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law.

James Mtume. Died Jan. 9. Age 76. Cancer. Famous jazz and R&B musician who played with Miles Davis and whose group that bore his name released the iconic song “Juicy Fruit.”  

Brigadier General Charles McGee. Died Jan. 16. Age 102. Natural causes. One of the first Black aviators in the U.S. military and one of the last living members of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. He served over 30 years and flew more than 400 combat missions from World War II to the Vietnam War. 

André Leon Talley. Died Jan. 18. Age 73. Complications from COVID. He was a fashion world icon. 

Bill Owens. Died Jan. 22. Age 84. Complications from COVID. He was a famous Boston politician who was the first African American to serve in the Massachusetts State Senate. 

Moses J. Moseley. Died Jan. 26. Age 31. Gunshot. He was an actor in “The Walking Dead.”

Cheslie Kryst. Died Jan. 30. Age 30. Suicide. She was Miss USA 2019, a practicing attorney and correspondent for “Extra” who was nominated for two Daytime Emmys 

Betty Davis. Died Feb 9. Age 77. Cancer. She was a singer, songwriter and model with a gritty, bluesy voice. She was Miles Davis’ second wife. 

Kevin Samuels. Died May 5. Age 53. Hypertension. The controversial internet star rose to fame because of his frank comments about relationships. 

Bob Lanier. Died May 10. Age 73. Passed after a brief illness following treatment for bladder cancer. An NBA great who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992. 

Mary Alice. Died July 27. Age 85. The Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actress starred in TV shows “A Different World” and “I’ll Fly Away” and in the Broadway production of August Wilson’s “Fences.” She was also known for playing the Oracle in “Matrix Revolutions.” 

Nichelle Nichols. Died July 30. Age 89. Heart failure. She played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek. 

Bill Russell. Died July 31. Age 88. Cause unknown. One of the greatest basketball players of all time. He won 11 NBA championships in an NBA career that lasted just 13 seasons.  

Earnie Shavers. Died Sept. 1. Age 78. Heavyweight boxer who went the distance with Muhammad Ali in 1977 but lost in a unanimous decision. Ali said Shavers was the hardest puncher he ever faced. 

Bernard Shaw. Died Sept. 7. Age 82. Pneumonia. A deeply trusted CNN news anchor. Shaw was in Baghdad at the start of the Persian Gulf War, reporting from under a desk as missiles flew past outside when he famously said, “Clearly I’ve never been there, but this feels like we’re in the center of hell.” 

David Arnold. Died Sept. 7. Age 54. Natural causes. A stand-up comedian and a rising star with a special on Netflix. 

PnB Rock. Died Sept. 12. Age 30. Gunshot. A rapper and singer whose 2019 sophomore album, “TrapStar Turnt PopStar,” reached the top 5 on the Billboard 200 chart. 

Coolio. Died Sept. 28. Age 59. Cardiac arrest. The man behind the monster single “Gangster’s Paradise,” which was the best-selling song of 1995 and one of the biggest songs of the decade. He was one of the most popular rappers to ever come out of Compton.  

Willie Spence. Died Oct. 11. Age 23. Car accident. A singer and runner-up on the 19th season of “American Idol.” 

Rev. Calvin Butts. Died Oct. 28. Age 73. Pancreatic cancer. For decades he was the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, the largest Black church in New York City. 

Takeoff. Died Nov. 1. Age 28. Gunshot. One-third of one of the biggest rap groups of their era: Migos. He was the youngest member of the group — Quavo was his uncle and Offset was his cousin. He was also the quietest — I once spent a few days with the group, interviewing them for Rolling Stone magazine, and offstage Takeoff seemed shy and taciturn. Quavo and Offset both said he was the best rapper in the group. 

Irene Cara. Died Nov. 25. Age 63. Cause unknown. A star of the 1980 hit film “Fame” who co-wrote and sang the iconic song “Flashdance…What A Feeling” for another hit film, “Flashdance.”

Clarence Gilyard Jr. Died Nov. 28. Age 66. Longtime actor best known for his roles on “Walker, Texas Ranger”  and “Matlock.” He also appeared in the movies “Die Hard” and “Top Gun.’

Paul Silas. Died Dec. 10. Age. 79. Cardiac arrest. A three-time NBA champion and LeBron James’ first NBA coach who also served as president of the National Basketball Players Association. He’s the father of Houston Rockets coach Stephen Silas. 

Stephen “tWitch” Boss. Died Dec. 13. Age 40. Suicide. Dancer and co-executive producer of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Franco Harris. Died Dec. 20. Age 72. Natural causes. NFL Hall of Fame running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers whose shoestring catch in a playoff game led to the “Immaculate Reception,” one of the most famous plays in NFL history.

Thom Bell. Died Dec. 22. Age 79. Cause unknown. Grammy Award-winning producer, composer and songwriter who, along with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, created the Sound of Philadelphia.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter. Look out for his upcoming podcast Being Black In the 80s.

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