1999 Deaths

1999 Year in Review

This year we mourned the loss of beloved writers, mythic sports heroes, and the passing of a young Kennedy, and his wife.

by Beth Rowen & John Gettings
Alice Adams
Age 72
Alice Adams was a skilled novelist and short-story writer. Adams, who wrote perceptively about the lives of women, authored ten novels and five collections of short stories, and was a frequent contributor to the New Yorker. Adams died in San Francisco on May 27, 1999.
Harry Blackmun
Age 90
Harry Blackmun was a retired Supreme Court justice whose conservative stance shifted to the left during his 24-year tenure. Appointed to the post in 1970 by Richard Nixon, he later became most famous for authoring the controversial 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, making first-trimester abortion legal in the U.S. He died in Arlington, Va., on March 4, 1999.
Paul Bowles
Age 88
Paul Bowles was a maverick writer and composer who influenced a generation of Beat writers with his moody, dark stories and novels and his eccentric lifestyle. He's best known for his 1949 novel, The Sheltering Sky. His Broadway scores, however, were light and enchanting. Bowles lived as an expatriate since 1947, avoiding the spotlight, and opted to live and thrive outside of the mainstream. A bisexual, Bowles was married to the novelist Jane Bowles, a lesbian. Bowles died in Tangier, Morocco on Nov. 7, 1999.
Wilton Norman (Wilt) Chamberlain
Age 63
One of the 20th century's most recognized athletes, Wilt Chamberlain is best remembered for scoring a record 100 points in a game (3/2/62); his battles with Boston Celtics center Bill Russell entertained a generation of basketball fans and set the standard for all sports rivalries; all-time NBA leader in rebounds (23,924) and second in points (31,419); only player to score 4,000 points in a season (1961-62), averaging 50.4 points a game; did not foul out of any of his more than 1,200 games; won NBA titles with Philadelphia in 1967 and Los Angeles in 1972; elected to Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1978; Chamberlain died in Bel Air, Calif. on Oct. 12.
Joe DiMaggio
Age 84
Graceful king of New York Yankees baseball for more than 60 years, Joe DiMaggio hit successfully in 56 straight games in 1941, a baseball record most experts think is unbreakable; roamed center field for the Bronx Bombers from 1936-51, missing three seasons to serve in WWII; won three American League MVP awards; his 369 career strikeouts (in 6,821 at bats) is a stunningly low for someone who hit 361 career home runs; won A.L. batting titles in 1939 and 1940 and finished his career with a lifetime .325 average; played in 11 All-Star Games: led the Yankees to 10 A.L. pennants and nine World Series championships; after divorcing his first wife in 1944, began dating actress Marilyn Monroe and married her in 1954; the relationship sparked a new legion of fans and turned him into a 20th century icon; elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility, 1955. DiMaggio died of lung cancer in Hollywood, Fla. on March 8.
James Farmer
Age 79
James Farmer was the last surviving member of the "Big Four" civil rights leaders of the 1960s, he helped found the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942. His contributions and his courage were honored in 1998 when President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Farmer died in Fredericksburg, Va. on July 9, 1999.
Raisa Gorbachev
Age 67
Raisa Gorbachev was the First Lady of the Soviet Union during a critical juncture in the former nation's history. Her assertive personality and influential role distinguished her from previous First Ladies. Gorbachev died in Münster, Germany on Sept. 21, 1999.
Hassan II
Age 70
Hassan II (Moulay Hassan) was an all-powerful monarch who had ruled Morocco for 38 years at the time of his death. A popular leader, he promoted a free market and a neutral foreign relations policy. Hassan II died in Rabat, Morocco on July 23, 1999.
Hussein I
Age 63
Hussein I (King of Jordan) was widely admired ruler of Jordan for more than four decades who made peace in the volatile Middle East a priority, establishing good relations between Jordan and its neighbors. One of his last accomplishments was helping to finalize the Wye Peace Accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in Oct. 1998. Hussein I died on Jan. 31, 1999.
Carolyn Bessette Kennedy
Age 33
Carolyn Bessette Kennedy was a press-shy fashion publicist who was thrown into the media spotlight when she married John F. Kennedy, Jr., in 1996. She managed to maintain a certain degree of privacy in spite of her husband's fame, but their tragic death in a plane crash attracted enormous worldwide attention. Bessette Kennedy died on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. on July 16, 1999.
John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Age 38
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. was a charismatic magazine editor and former lawyer who, born just three weeks after his father's election to the presidency, grew up in the spotlight and never escaped it. Admired for his enthusiasm, his charity, and his photogenic good looks, Kennedy was mourned by thousands worldwide after his tragic death when the plane he was piloting crashed near Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Kennedy died near Martha's Vineyard, Mass., on July 16, 1999.
Stanley Kubrick
Age 70
Stanley Kubrick was an influential director whose list of credits includes such disturbing but popular films as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Dr. Strangelove (1964), and The Shining (1980). Kubrick died in Hertfordshire County, England on March 7, 1999.
Akio Morita
Age 78
Akio Morita was a Japanese Sony co-founder who was a major influence in the globalization of business. The imaginative marketing wizard was responsible for inventing the Walkman and making Sony a top brand name in America. Morita died on Oct. 3, 1999.
Iris Murdoch
Age 79
Iris Murdoch was an important British writer whose 27 novels included The Bell (1958) and The Sea, the Sea (1978), for which she won the Booker Prize. In 1987 she was made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire. Murdoch died in Oxford, England on Feb. 8. 1999.
Mario Puzo
Age 78
Mario Puzo penned The Godfather, a bestseller that would later be made into one of the most popular movies of all-time. He also wrote the follow-up novels in the Godfather trilogy and several other books and screenplays. Puzo denied having any ties to the Mafia scene about which he so convincingly wrote. Puzo died in Bay Shore, N.Y. on July 2, 1999.
Pee Wee Reese
Pee Wee Reese was a Hall of Fame shortstop who was the undisputed leader of the "Boys of Summer," the Brooklyn Dodgers post-World War II teams; born Harold Henry Reese; his nickname came from a common type of marble called a "pee-wee"; became a Dodger starter in 1941 and helped the team win its first league title in 21 years; eight-time All-Star; won seven N.L. pennants and fielded the final out in Brooklyn's only World Series championship in 1955; elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984; Reese died of lung cancer in Louisville, Ky. on Aug. 14.
George C. Scott
Age 71
George Campbell Scott was a captivating actor whose skill shone through on the big screen, on stage, and on TV. While he won several awards, including Obies, Emmys, and Golden Globes, he will long be remembered for turning down the best-actor Oscar for his 1970 title-role performance in Patton. Scott died in Westlake Village, Calif. on Sept. 22, 1999.
Shel Silverstein
Age 66
Shel Silverstein was a popular writer and illustrator who brought us the humorous children's poetry collections A Light in the Attic (1981) and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1981). He also penned the classic story The Giving Tree (1964), which is celebrating its 35th year in publication. Silverstein died in Key West, Fla. on May 10, 1999.
Gene Siskel
Age 53
Gene Siskel (Eugene Kal Siskel) was a familiar Chicago Tribune film critic who achieved fame through his television pairing with rival-turned-pal Roger Ebert. The two became major film-industry figures as their "thumbs up-thumbs down" rating system caught on among American movie-goers. Siskel died on Feb. 20, 1999.
Dusty Springfield
Age 59
Dusty Springfield (Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien) was a soulful British singer whose hits included '60s songs "Son of a Preacher Man" and "Wishin' and Hopin'." She was honored by Queen Elizabeth II in Dec. 1998 and was scheduled to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame eleven days after her death. Springfield died on Henley-on-Thames, England on March 2, 1999.
Mel Tormé
Age 73
Mel Tormé was a versatile pop and jazz singer who was fondly referred to as the "Velvet Fog." His lengthy career spanned 70 years and produced the classic, "The Christmas Song" (also known as "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"). Tormé died in Los Angeles on June 5, 1999.
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