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2012 Passings

20 Newsmakers to Remember

They were public figures, leaders, astronauts and more

Neil Armstrong, 82

ASTRONAUT
The Ohio native mostly shunned the limelight, but there was no hiding his towering accomplishment as the first human to walk on the moon. After retiring from NASA, he was a university professor and served on corporate boards. 

1969: Courtesy NASA

George McGovern, 90

SENATOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE 
A war hero turned professor turned antiwar senator, he was crushed by Nixon in the 1972 presidential race. The South Dakotan returned to the Senate; he later served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

1972: Bettmann/Corbis

Helen Gurley Brown, 90

MAGAZINE EDITOR
She helped lead the charge to reinvent American attitudes about female sexuality — first with her best-selling and groundbreaking 1962 book, Sex and The Single Girl, then as editor of Cosmopolitan for more than 30 years.

1965: Bettmann/Corbis

Arlen Specter, 82

SENATOR
A party-switching senator from Pennsylvania, he was elected as a Republican in 1980, after beginning his public service career as a Democrat. He returned to the Democrats in 2009, saying the GOP "has moved farther and farther to the right." 

2005: Brooks Kraft/Corbis

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, 92

RELIGIOUS LEADER 
Followers of his Unification Church — known, pejoratively, as "Moonies" — were encouraged to marry each other, often to mates chosen by the church. He presided over a mass wedding of 2,075 such couples at Madison Square Garden (left).

1982: Allan Tannenbaum/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Rodney King, 47

BEATING VICTIM  
He became an unwitting symbol of racial tension in 1991, when his vicious beating by several baton-wielding Los Angeles police officers — whom he, driving drunk, had been trying to evade in a high-speed chase — was caught on tape.

1992: Ted Soqui/Corbis

Barry Commoner, 95

ACTIVIST, CANDIDATE 
The pioneering environmentalist — in 1970, Time magazine famously dubbed him "the Paul Revere of Ecology" — taught at Washington University in St. Louis for three decades before running for president on the Citizens Party ticket in 1980.

1980: Bettmann/Corbis

Arthur O. Sulzberger, 86

NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER 
Scion of one of America’s great newspaper families, he became publisher of The New York Times in 1963, at age 37 — and ran the paper for 34 years. He defied the Nixon administration in 1971 by publishing the Pentagon Papers.

1996: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times/Redux Pictures

'Zig' Ziglar, 86

MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER 
Like a circuit-riding preacher of old, Hilary "Zig" Ziglar traveled the country to deliver his Christian-tinged inspirational messages. He found his calling in his 40s. The first of his popular books, See You at the Top, was published when he was 49.

ca. 1980s: Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis

Charles Colson, 80

WATERGATE FIGURE, MINISTER 
The first of Nixon’s "dirty tricks" henchmen to do jail time, he became an evangelical Christian shortly before entering the slammer. He then dedicated his life to speaking, organizing and writing about his faith — and about prison reform.

1974: AP

Letitia Baldrige, 86

ETIQUETTE EXPERT 
As social secretary to her boarding school pal Jacqueline Kennedy, she shaped the elegance of Camelot and JFK’s funeral. Later an author, she advised that good manners stem from "being aware of other people" and "just being nice."  

ca. 1970s: Bernard Gotfryd/Getty Images

Warren Rudman, 82

SENATOR
The New Hampshire Republican was a persistent critic of budget deficits, and cosponsored legislation in 1985 to trigger automatic spending cuts in times of large deficits. He also helped secure a Supreme Court seat for David Souter.

1986: Terry Ashe/Time-Life Pictures/Getty Images

J. Christopher Stevens, 52

DIPLOMAT 
More famous in death than in life, Chris Stevens was a Berkeley-educated lawyer who joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1991. While serving as the ambassador to Libya, he was killed on Sept. 11 in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

2011: Ben Curtis/AP

Russell Means, 72

ACTIVIST, ACTOR 
The country’s most famous Native American activist was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Means (far left) led the American Indian Movement’s 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, and later acted in Hollywood films.

1973: Jim Mone/AP

Stephen Covey, 79

MOTIVATOR
The former Brigham Young professor revealed the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People with his 1989 book — one of the best-selling business volumes ever. The book launched a lucrative career in speaking, consulting and more writing. 

1994: Alan Levenson/Time-Life Pictures/Getty Images

Robert Bork, 85

JURIST
As acting attorney general in 1973, he fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. The bitter partisan clash over his 1987 nomination to the Supreme Court (he was rejected) set the tone for many confirmation battles that followed.

1987: John Duricka/AP

William Raspberry, 76

COLUMNIST
A pioneering African American journalist, he wrote a widely syndicated column from his perch at The Washington Post for nearly 40 years — tackling issues of poverty, education and life in America’s urban centers. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994.

2012: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Daniel K. Inouye, 88

SENATOR 
He served his country as few have: awarded two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and the Congressional Medal of Honor for his World War II heroism, and then as a member of Congress from Hawaii’s statehood in 1959 until his death. 

2011: Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images

Sally Ride, 61

ASTRONAUT
When the Space Shuttle Challenger went aloft in 1983, she became the first American woman in space, inspiring a generation of young girls — whom she later reached by writing children's books with her life partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy.

1983: NASA/Corbis

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, 78

MILITARY LEADER
A plain-spoken commander, he led the successful effort to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in 1991. His father, as head of the New Jersey State Police, led the investigation into the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son in the 1930s.

 

1991: David Turnley/Corbis

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Find more about these newsmakers in AARP's "Legacy" blog, and elsewhere on our website: 

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