Looking back on the DC-area icons who died in 2021
was the long-serving secretary of state for President Ronald Reagan. He was a titan of American academia, business and diplomacy. He spent most of the 1980s trying to improve Cold War relations with the Soviet Union and forging a course for peace in the Middle East. As the nation’s chief diplomat, he negotiated the first-ever treaty to reduce the size of the Soviet Union’s ground-based nuclear arsenal. He was a prominent proponent of efforts to fight the effects of climate change, warning that ignoring the risks was suicidal. Shultz died in February at his home on the campus of Stanford University. He was 100.
G. Gordon Liddy
was proud to be considered one of the masterminds of the Watergate burglary. He spent four years in prison for burglary and illegal wiretapping in the Watergate affair, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. He became a popular, provocative and controversial syndicated radio talk show host, broadcasting from a radio station in Northern Virginia. He wrote best-selling books, acted in TV shows like “Miami Vice,” was a frequent guest-lecturer on college campuses and worked as a security consultant. G. Gordon Liddy died in March at his daughter’s home in Virginia. He was 90.
was a two-time defense secretary whose reputation as a skilled bureaucrat and visionary of a modern American military was unraveled by a long and costly war in Iraq. Rumsfeld was the only person to serve twice as Pentagon chief. The first time he served, from 1975 to 1977, he was the youngest chief ever. The next time, from 2001 to 2006, he was the oldest. The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003 under Rumsfeld. Baghdad fell quickly, but U.S. and Allied forces soon became consumed with a violent insurgency. Rumsfeld died in June. He was 88.
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2006, file photo, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asks for another question following his Landon Lecture at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. The family of Rumsfeld says he died June 29, 2021. He was 88. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)
Meteorologist Doug Hill
was on the air for more than three decades in the D.C. area. He forecast the weather at WUSA for 16 years, then for more than 17 years at WJLA. After that, he was heard for more than 15 years on WTOP. Doug was a police officer in Prince George’s County before becoming a broadcaster. He began his TV career in Richmond in 1978, worked in Detroit and came to the D.C. area in 1984. He retired to North Carolina to spend more time with his family and at his church. Hill died in November after a short illness. He was 71.
News anchor Joe Krebs
worked at NBC Washington for 32 years and was a morning news anchor there for 18 of those years. He retired in 2012 because he wanted to travel and spend more time with his family. Krebs grew up in St. Louis, where he went to law school. He was a county prosecutor and served in the Navy. As a union shop steward, he was known for fighting tirelessly for his colleagues at the bargaining table. Krebs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years before he died from the disease in April at his home in Rockville, surrounded by family and friends. He was 78.
(Courtesy NBC Washington)
Thomas V. “Mike” Miller
dominated Maryland politics for half a century. He was the longest-serving president of a Maryland Senate. He served 33 years, under six governors. He represented Prince George’s County. Miller was a centrist at heart, but as Maryland grew increasingly liberal, he helped pass progressive laws, including the legalization of same-sex marriage and the repeal of the death penalty. Supporters and opponents said he held grudges, and was a master of power and control with an Irish temper and an Irish humor. He said he didn’t fear anyone. Mike Miller died at his home in Chesapeake Beach in January of complications from prostate cancer. He was 78.
was best known as the New York Times reporter who, in 1971, broke the story of the Pentagon Papers — a massive history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that showed the country’s leaders had repeatedly lied to the American people about the war. Sheehan was also the author of “A Bright Shining Lie,” a Pulitzer-Prize-winning book that chronicled the deception at the heart of the Vietnam War. It was published in 1988, 15 years after he began working on it. Sheehan lived for many years in Northwest Washington. He died in January of complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 84.
overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader, a Republican presidential candidate — and then a symbol of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans. During his 36-year-long career on Capitol Hill, Dole became an influential legislator known for being able to work with Democrats. He devoted his later years to the cause of wounded veterans, and remembrance of the fading generation of World War II vets. He pushed for the World War II memorial that now stands on the National Mall in Washington. Dole was the Republican nominee for president in 1996. He was defeated by President Bill Clinton. Dole had stage 4 lung cancer. He died in December. He was 98.
Vice President Walter Mondale
, seen on the left, served as the vice president for President Jimmy Carter, seen on the right. Mondale was a former senator, ambassador and Minnesota attorney general. Mondale’s own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald Reagan’s popularity. His selection of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate made him the first major-party presidential nominee to put a woman on the ticket, but his declaration that he would raise taxes helped define the race. He lost in a lopsided presidential election. He died in April at 93.
Secretary of State Colin Powell
was raised in the South Bronx by Jamaican immigrants. He became a four-star Army general, then the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the nation’s first Black Secretary of State. His oversight of the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991 made him a household name, prompting speculation for nearly a decade that he might run for president. But he never did. Powell’s reputation was stained by his faulty claims at the United Nations to justify the 2003 war in Iraq. Powell had Parkinson’s disease and was being treated for blood cancer. He was fully vaccinated, but died of COVID-19 in October. He was 84.
FILE - Secretary of State Colin Powell looks on as President Bush addresses State Department employees at the State Department in Washington, on Feb. 15, 2001. Powell, who died Oct. 18, 2021, was a trailblazing soldier and diplomat. (AP Photo/Kenneth Lambert, File)
TV talk show host Larry King
, on the left, was known his ability to have a conversation with anyone. It didn’t matter whether they were presidents, pop stars, athletes or actors. He was a nationally syndicated radio host for years, based in D.C., before moving to CNN in 1985. In its early years, “Larry King Live” was based in Washington. King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews, including the Dalai Lama, Elizabeth Taylor, Mikhail Gorbachev, Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Lady Gaga. King boasted of never overpreparing for an interview. His non-confrontational style relaxed his guests and made him readily relatable to his audience. He was married eight times to seven women. He died of sepsis in January in Los Angeles at 87.
Millions of Americans listened to Rush Limbaugh
for more than 30 years. On his nationally syndicated radio show, he ripped into liberals and laid waste to political correctness, becoming one of the most powerful voices in politics and influencing American conservatism with his talent for sarcastic, insult-laced commentary. His three-hour weekday radio show was broadcast on almost 600 stations in the U.S. He started in 1988 with one station. His critics said he brought hyper-partisanship into the mainstream and accused him of bigotry and blatant racism. Rush Limbaugh was married four times. He had no children. He died of lung cancer in Florida in February. He was 70.
Veteran journalist Roger Mudd
was a longtime CBS News political correspondent who also worked at NBC, PBS and the History Channel during his more than 30 years on network television. In 2010, he donated $4 million to Washington and Lee University to endow The Roger Mudd Center for Ethics. Mudd graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in D.C. in 1945. Before joining CBS News, Mudd worked at WTOP radio and television in the mid-1950s. Mudd died in March of complications of kidney failure at his home in McLean, Virginia, where he had lived for decades. He was 93.
Linwood Holton Jr.
was Virginia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and a crusader against racial discrimination. He served from 1970 to 1974. He declared an end to the commonwealth’s policy of resistance to federal orders to desegregate its schools. He enrolled his own white children in predominantly Black schools rather than fight school busing. He also was the first Virginia governor to appoint Black officials to high-level government posts. Although he never officially left the Republican Party, the former governor increasingly sided with Democrats. He called on the party to renounce its “segregationist appeal to Southerners.” After leaving office, Holton returned to practicing law and eventually settled in Northern Virginia. He died in October. He was 98.
(Getty Images/Fairfax Media Archives)
White House Adviser Vernon Jordan
, seen on the left with President Bill Clinton, was an activist and close adviser to Clinton who rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to become a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer. He attended law school at Howard University in D.C. and soon became a leader in civil rights organizations. In 1980, in Fort Wayne, Indiana he was shot with a hunter’s rifle by a racist and nearly died. “My view on all this business about race is never to get angry, no, but to get even,” Jordan said in a New York Times interview in 2000. “You don’t take it out in anger; you take it out in achievement.” Jordan died in March. He was 85.
spent decades performing in the D.C. area, singing blues, jazz, R&B, Southern rock, funk, soul, swing, reggae and country with his longtime bandmates at venues across the area. He played at Madam’s Organ in D.C. every week since 1993. Artis, who grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, began singing in 1986 after a career in the restaurant industry. Before his mother died of cancer at an early age, she told him to do what you love so he quit and began singing, and kept singing for 35 years. Johnny Artis died in November of complications from COVID-19. He was 63.
(Courtesy Stacy Brooks)
A prolific D.C. hip-hop producer, Chucky Thompson
was born in the District and became a top producer at the legendary Bad Boy Entertainment in New York City, where he produced some of the biggest hip-hop records of all time including “Big Poppa” for Notorious B.I.G. Thompson also produced records for Usher, Ice Cube, Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez, Brian McKnight, Mariah Carey, Busta Rhymes and Ne-Yo. Chucky Thompson died in November from complications of COVID-19. He was 53.
(Getty Images/Kris Connor)
was the Anne Arundel County Executive from 1974 to 1982. In 1982, he was the Republican nominee for Maryland governor, but lost to Democrat Harry Hughes. Pascal was well-known for his personal generosity and charitable giving, donating millions. He started a nonprofit to provide mental-health care and substance abuse treatment. Several county facilities are named for him, including a senior center and a performing arts center at Anne Arundel Community College. Robert Pascal died in March. He was 86.
(Courtesy University of Maryland)