Year in Review, 1999: People in the News

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
1999 Year in Review

Whether taking the helm of a newly-independent South Africa or simply living "La Vida Loca," these were the ones who made the headlines in 1999.

by Beth Rowen
Lance Armstrong
Age 27
Lance Armstrong won the 86th Tour de France in July, only three years after being diagnosed with aggressive testicular cancer, which spread to the Texas native's abdomen, lungs, and brain.
Roberto Benigni
Age 47
Roberto Benigni, a larger-than-life Italian actor, director, and writer, won the hearts of millions with his emotional, acrobatic reaction to winning Best Actor and Best Foreign-Language Film honors at the 1998 Academy Awards in March for Life Is Beautiful.
George W. Bush
Age 53
George W. Bush, governor of Texas, emerged as the front-runner in a crowded field of Republican presidential hopefuls. In his first four months of fund-raising, he amassed an astounding $37 million. His early platform stressed “compassionate conservatism,” though his definition of the slogan was intentionally vague.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Age 52
Hillary Rodham Clinton, first lady, launched an exploratory committee in July to consider a run for the U.S. Senate. If she follows through, Clinton will become the first first lady to run for public office. She faces a stiff challenge from New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani. While she'll have no problem with name recognition, Clinton will have to face down the carpetbagger issue. The Illinois native and former Arkansas resident has never lived in New York.
Amadou Diallo
Age 22
Amadou Diallo, West African immigrant, was shot 19 times in February in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment by four plainclothes police officers. Diallo, a street peddler, was unarmed. The officers, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss, and Richard Murphy, were all indicted on two counts of second-degree murder. They all pleaded guilty and were freed on bail.
Bill Gates
Age 44
Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman, in September pledged $1 billion to send about 1,000 minorities to college. The scholarships will be distributed over the next 20 years to black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian students who plan to pursue degrees in engineering, math, science, and education. He was in the news again in November, when Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the judge presiding over the government's antitrust case against Microsoft, said the company was indeed a monopoly. In his findings of fact, Jackson said the software giant exercises monopoly control over PC operating systems and uses its power to the detriment of consumers.
José Gusmão
Age 53
José Gusmão, East Timorese guerrilla leader, was widely expected to lead the newly independent East Timor through its uneasy period of transition. He is seen as a conciliator who can work with both East Timorese and the Indonesian government, which watched idly as militias launched a campaign of terror on the tiny territory after it voted in August to separate from Indonesia. He has been fighting for independence since the 1970s, since Indonesia annexed East Timor after the Portuguese withdrawal. He was jailed in 1992 and released in September by B. J. Habibie, then president of Indonesia. Many acknowledge that Gusmão should have shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with José Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo.
. Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold
Ages 18, 17
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, high school students, went on a shooting rampage on April 20 at Littleton, Colorado's Columbine High School, killing 12 students and 1 teacher before turning guns on themselves. The pair, who were members of the school's "trenchcoat mafia," had been planning the attack for a year and were armed with sawed-off shotguns, a semiautomatic rifle, and homemade bombs. They targeted athletes and minorities. The tragedy led to soul-searching in Washington, with politicians blaming everything from Ritalin to the entertainment industry to day care for the deadly spate of school violence.
Lauryn Hill
Age 24
Lauryn Hill, versatile singer and record producer, fused rap, soul, reggae, and R&B on her chart-topping, Grammy-winning solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In February, she walked away with five Grammys, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist, the most trophies ever won by a woman. She also won four 1999 MTV Music Video Awards. Hill recorded the album while on hiatus from the hip-hop band The Fugees.
Elia Kazan
Age 89
Elia Kazan, director, won a controversial Lifetime Achievement Award at the 71st Annual Academy Awards in March. While no one denied Kazan's contribution to film, many in the industry were outraged that the Academy chose to honor the man who, in 1952 before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, ratted on eight of his friends who, with him, had been members of the American Communist Party in the 1930s. His films include On the Waterfront, East of Eden, and A Streetcar Named Desire.
Lee Teng-hui
Age 76
Lee Teng-hui, president of Taiwan, nearly set off an international crisis in July when he announced that he considers Taiwan a state that would bargain with China only on a "state-to-state" basis. Beijing and Taipei hammered out an agreement in 1993 that said each country had its own government but each was part of "one China."
Ricky Martin
Age 27
Ricky Martin, Latino pop singer, burst onto the music scene in the U.S. after his hip-shaking performance at the February Grammy Awards. His self-titled English-language debut album hit stores in May and immediately shot up the charts. The single Livin' la Vida Loca sent millions of women swooning. Martin was a member of Menudo, the Puerto Rican boy band. He also did a stint on General Hospital.
Thabo Mbeki
Age 57
Thabo Mbeki, South African politician, was elected president in June, succeeding Nelson Mandela. Mbeki eased into his new role, having already assumed many of Mandela's governing responsibilities shortly after Mandela won South Africa's first democratic election in 1994.
Slobodan Milosevic
Age 57
Slobodan Milosevic, president of Yugoslavia, balked at repeated warnings from NATO to withdraw Yugoslav troops and weapons from Albanian-dominated Kosovo, which had been fighting for full independence from Serbia. NATO-led air strikes began in late March and continued through early June, until Milosevic finally relented and withdrew his troops. Reports of atrocities against Albanian civilians were widespread, and in May the United Nations International War Crimes Tribunal formally indicted Milosevic and four other Yugoslav officials for crimes against humanity. They were accused of deporting 740,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo in 1999 and murdering more than 340 identified victims.
Edmund Morris
Age 59
Edmund Morris, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, wove together fact and fiction and inserted himself as a character in his authorized biography of Ronald Reagan, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. Morris claimed that despite unprecedented access to the president, he never got to know the real Reagan.
Olusegun Obasanjo
Age 62
Olusegun Obasanjo, retired general, was elected president of Nigeria in February, becoming the first civilian ruler in 15% years for Africa's most populous nation. His victory was overshadowed by allegations of fraud and ballot-box tampering.
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