Notable (and Should Have Been Notable) Deaths in 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Every year there are deaths we remember and deaths we don't, and sometimes one or two we'll never forget. The notable and should have been notable political deaths of the year were men and women, leaders from the top levels to the ground, firsts and lasts, movers and shakers, all controversial in their own way, who leave behind an American society changed by their actions.

Among them are the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history, the first female to become a General in the U.S. Air Force, an early NAACP president, a cross country marcher for campaign reform, the last surviving rabbi to witness the Holocaust, a speechwriter who wrote phrases we still remember, the decider of our retirement age, and an organizer of some of the first formal interracial conversations between northern and southern women in the United States.


Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Dorothy Irene Height - March 24, 1912 - April 20, 2010.

Height was a civil rights activist and president of the National Council of Negro Women for four decades. Born in Richmond and educated at New York University, she organized a series of interfaith, interracial conversations in the 1960s between northern and southern women called "Wednesdays in Mississippi."

Abbie Rowe/National Park Service
Theodore C. Sorenson - May 8, 1924 - October 30, 2010.

Sorenson was a counselor and speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy. He was also a mentor to international leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Anwar Sadat. One of Sorenson's most famous speeches was Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address, for which he wrote, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Frederick M. Brown/Getty
Elizabeth Edwards - July 3, 1949 - December 7, 2010.

Edwards was a lawyer, health care advocate, and the wife of former U.S. Senator of North Carolina, John Edwards. She was a close advisor during her husband's quest for the 2008 presidential nomination and grappled publicly with cancer and her husband's infidelity.

Chris Hondros/Getty
Robert Franks - September 21, 1951 - April 9, 2010

Franks served as a state legislator in New Jersey and as a U.S. Representative for nearly four terms. He was also a Republican strategist credited with engineering the resurgence of the GOP in New Jersey and served twice as the state's chairman of the Republican party.

Senator Robert Byrd - November 20, 1917 - June 28, 2010.

Senator Byrd was the longest serving Senator in U.S. history, representing West Virginia for nearly 52 years. He was a master of the Senate process, known for directing federal funds to his home state and for carrying a copy of the Constitution in his pocket.

Marcel Mettelsiefen/Getty
Leo Trepp - March 4, 1913 - September 2, 2010.

Trepp was the last surviving German-born Rabbi to witness the Holocaust. He was a respected author, scholor and promotor of interfaith understanding.


Joyce Naltchayan/Getty
Dan Rostenkowski - January 22, 1928 - August 11, 2010.

Rostenkowski represented the state of Illinois in Congress for 36 years. He helped write legislation that became Medicare in 1966 and was a central figure in shaping Congressional tax policy. Near the end of his career, he pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and went to prison. He was later pardoned by President Clinton.

Mark Wilson/Getty
Ted Stevens - November 18, 1923 - August 9, 2010.

Stevens was a long-time U.S. Republican Senator of Alaska. He began his career before Alaska had statehood and ended his four-decade career in 2008 as the longest serving GOP Senator. He lost his seat in 2008 after he was convicted of accepting bribes from a powerful oil contractor in Alaska.

Alex Wong/Getty
Doris Haddock - January 24, 1910 - March 9, 2010.

Haddock, known as "Granny D," spent 14 months walking from California to Washington at the age of 88 to advocate for campaign finance reform. She was 100 years old when she died.

Tim Sloan/Getty
Alexander Haig - December 2, 1924 - February 20, 2010.

Haig was an accomplished Army General and an advisor to three Presidents. He served as Secretary of State under Ronald Regan and was White House Chief of Staff under President Nixon.

Robyn Beck/Getty
Representative John P. Murtha - June 17, 1932 - February 9, 2010.

Rep. Murtha was a Democrat from an economically devestated southwestern Pennsylvania. He was known for his mastery of the budget process to funnel money back to his district. He was a staunch defender of military spending and a right-hand man for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Frazier Harrison/Getty
Howard Zinn - August 24, 1922 - January 27, 2010.

Zinn was an historian, author and political activist known for challenging the status quo. He was an early opponent of the U.S. War in Vietnam and his book, A People's History of the United States inspired a re-thinking of the American history textbook.

Paul Richards/Getty
Mario G. Obledo - April 9, 1932 - August 18, 2010.

Obledo was a lawyer, civil rights activist and co-founder of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and various other major Hispanic-American organizations. The son of Mexican immigrants, he was also the first Latino to lead a state agency in California.

Armin Weigel/Getty
Richard Holbrooke - April 24, 1941 - December 13, 2010

Holbrooke was a veteran diplomat and the Obama administration's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was a diplomatic troubleshooter who worked with every Democratic president since the 1960's. He also helped broker the peace accord that ended the war in Bosnia.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Benjamin L. Hooks - January 31, 1925 - April 15, 2010

Hooks was a lawyer, Baptist minister and civil rights activist. He was long time director of the NAACP and led lunch counter sit-ins in the south during the civil rights movement. Hooks became the first black judge to serve in TN state court post-Reconstruction and he was the first black member of the Federal Communications Commission where he advocated for minority ownership of TV and radio.

Courtesy of U.S. Air Force
Jeanne Holm - June 23, 1921 - February 15, 2010

Holm was the first female general in the Air Force and the first woman to become a two-star general in any U.S. armed service. She worked throughout her career to increase gender equity in the military and credited the women's revolution with her own professional success. Until she became a general, Air Force regulations restricted women to a rank no higher than full colonel.

Department of Commerce/Wikipedia Commons
Robert A. Mosbacher - March 11, 1927 - January 24, 2010

Mosbacher was a Texas oilman who successfully promoted the North American Free Trade Agreement as Commerce Secretary under George H. W. Bush. He served as chief fundraiser for five Republican presidents and first came to politics in 1976 when he was named finance co-chairman for the Republican Party.

Charles Beyer
Jill Johnston - May 17, 1929 - September 18, 2010

Johnston was a columnist for The Village Voice, an author, cultural critic and feminist. She was an early leader in the gay rights movement. Her book, Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution was known for spearheading the lesbian separatist movement in the 1970's.

Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project
William Hohri - March 13, 1927 - November 12, 2010

Hohri was a prisoner in the World War II internment camps for Japanese-Americans and became an advocate for his fellow internees. He was the lead plaintiff in a politically charged, yet unsuccessful class action law suit on their behalf and pushed for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, a public apology from the U.S. government to Japanese Americans.

Social Security Administration
Robert Julius Myers - October 31, 1912 - February 13, 2010

Myers was an actuary who helped create the Social Security program under the Roosevelt administration. He was also responsible for setting the retirement age at 65. He served as Social Security's chief actuary from 1947 to 1970.

Charlie Wilson - June 1, 1933 - February 10, 2010

Wilson was a former 12-term Texas Congressman who pushed the covert operation that helped Afghan rebels defeat the Soviets. His nickname on Capitol Hill was "Good Time Charlie" and he was considered a political lightweight until he funnelled money to the Afghan cause.


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