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POLITICIAN, ACTIVIST: He became South Africa’s first black president after spending 27 years imprisoned for fighting apartheid, and steered his country to multiracial democracy. Upon Mandela's death, President Obama called the leader and humanitarian, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, "a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice."
2009: Theana Calitz/Getty Images
ADVICE COLUMNIST: The identical twin sister of Ann Landers managed to take the advice column tradition from moldy to merciless. From 1956 to 2000, using the pen name Abigail Van Buren, she guided newspaper readers through life’s quandaries with her no-nonsense counsel.
1958: Fred Lyon/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
BASEBALL PLAYER: “Stan the Man” was the St. Louis Cardinals great known for his sportsmanship and swing, with 3,630 hits in a career stretching from 1941 to 1963. His statue at Busch Stadium bears the words, “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight."
c. 1940s: Baseball Hall of Fame Library/MLB/Getty
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: He saved the Big Apple from bankruptcy and built 250,000 affordable homes. The brash, shrewd, funny three-term mayor (1978-89) loved to stop New Yorkers in the street to ask, “How’m I doin’?” His proudest coup, he once said, was “I gave people back their spirit.”
1978: Ted Thai/Time & Life Pictures/Getty
U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: In the 1980s the famously gruff antiabortion pediatric surgeon became the country’s most influential surgeon general ever. He won over skeptics with vigorous anti-smoking and AIDS-awareness campaigns, and by separating questions of science and morality.
1988: Barry Thumma/AP Images
DESIGNER: The Palm Beach socialite designed her first brightly printed shift dress to hide stains while working at a juice stand. It was a hit, and led to a clothing line that took off in the ’60s and, with its pinks and greens, came to epitomize preppy style. Her prints are now worn as sunny retro chic.
c. 1955: Slim Aarons/Getty Images
PRIME MINISTER: Britain’s controversial Cold War-era PM led the U.K. to victory in the Falklands War, and stalwartly supported a conservative, free-market agenda throughout the ’80s. Known as the Iron Lady, she once said, “I am not a consensus politician. I am a conviction politician.”
1987: Tim Graham/Getty Images
MEDIA PSYCHOLOGIST: After finding some fame with a win on The $64,000 Question, Brothers took her Ph.D. in psychology to the masses. She offered her advice in print and on her TV show, and helped pioneer the self-help lit craze and media psychology (she called herself its “founding mother”).
1959: Herb Ball/NBC/Getty Images
PRIEST AND AUTHOR: Chicago’s famously vocal Catholic priest was a critic of the religious establishment — he’d refer to God as “she” — and a prolific writer of 100-plus books, including some steamy novels. (“If you’re celibate,” he once explained, “you have to do something.”)
c. 1980s: University of Chicago/AP Images
U.S. SENATOR: The Democratic senator from New Jersey, a long-respected voice on the Hill, was still in office when he passed away. The multimillionaire WWII vet was behind some key laws we now take for granted, including setting the national drinking age at 21 and banning smoking in airplanes.
2012: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images
WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: For 60 years no president could avoid her tough questions. She asked George W. Bush his “real reason” for invading Iraq and griped that Obama treated the press like “puppets.” “I’m no lady,” she once corrected a Carter aide, “I’m a reporter.”
SEX RESEARCHER: A former torch singer and reporter, Johnson was able to use her warmth to melt inhibitions: In 1957 she convinced test subjects to doff their clothes for observations of human sexuality by Dr. William Masters (pictured), her research partner and, later, her husband.
U.S. SENATOR: A proud Virginia politician who’d followed his father into the U.S. Senate, Byrd was an independent, a fiscal conservative and a throwback to a now-bygone era: His political legacy will be forever marked by his vehement opposition to school desegregation in the 1950s.
OLD-SCHOOL REPORTER: Germond covered 10 presidential elections as an unabashed practitioner of “horse-race journalism” and was the vocal liberal on the shoutfest The McLaughlin Group. With partner Jules Witcover, he wrote a syndicated weekday political column from 1977 to 2000.
2012: Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/Getty Images
JOURNALIST: The British TV show host became famous in 1977 for his series of interviews with former President Richard Nixon, during which Nixon voiced regret for his part in the Watergate scandal. The 2008 film Frost/Nixon focused on Frost’s unlikely role as Nixon’s inquisitor.
1977: John Bryson/Time-Life Pictures/Getty Images
FOOTBALL PLAYER: Often dubbed “one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history” and “a larger than life character,” the legendary Hall of Famer was known for mowing down (“sacking,” as he termed it) quarterbacks as a powerful defensive end for the L.A. Rams, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins.
1972: Sporting News via Getty Images
COOKING GURU: She taught Americans how to cook like Italians, starting with a 1960s class in her home, continuing with cookbooks such as the 1973 Classic Italian Cook Book. Her focus was simply on flavor. “I don’t want to impress,” she once said. “I want to do something that is good.”
2012: Chris O’Meara/AP Images
ASTRONAUT: One of the original seven Project Mercury astronauts, he became the fourth American in space during a nerve-wracking mission in 1962. He wrote afterward, “The first thing that impressed me was the silence.” He later became an aquanaut, exploring the ocean’s depths.
U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Democrats were bereft when the House speaker from Washington state lost his seat after 15 terms in office during the GOP “revolution” in 1994. Later the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Foley will be remembered for his ability to find common ground across party lines.
1989: Rob Lewine/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
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