Best of the Decade: Influential Figures We Lost this Decade

This past decade we were introduced and inspired by many new figures in areas of politics, entertainment, athletic, entrepreneurship, and more; however, we also lost many influential figures who helped pave the way for future trailblazers to follow. Here are the top figures we lost between 2010-2019.  

Elijah Cummings 

January 18, 1951- October 17, 2019

Died of long standing health complications 

A twelve-term, Democratic representative for Maryland’s 7th congressional district. During his time as a politician, he advocated for the civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter movement, and fought to strip down negative stereotypes about his city, Baltimore. 

Toni Morrison 

February 18, 1931- August 5, 2019 

Died of pneumonia 

Being the first African-American woman to win a Nobel-Peace Prize in Literature, Morrison’s work explored African-American life in America and shed light on the unjust realities African-American women face in the U.S. She is most known for her two novels, Song of Solomon and Beloved, which both received awards and appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list regularly. 


June 7, 1958- April 21, 2016

Died of accidental drug overdose 

American singer-songwriter known for his falsetto voice and flamboyant stage presence. He gained popularity in the music world for his fusion of sexual and religious themes. The seven-time Grammy winner is most known for his albums such as Purple Rain and 1999

Whitney Houston

August 9, 1963- February 11, 2012 

Died of atherosclerotic heart disease and drug use

American singer and actress. According to Guinness World Records, Houston is the most awarded female artist of all time and boast over 20 million records sold worldwide. Known for her impressive vocal range, her most notable albums are My Love is Your Love, I’m Your Baby Tonight, I Look to You, and more. 

Mac Miller

January 19, 1992- September 7, 2018

Died of accidental drug overdose 

American rapper, singer-songwriter, and record producer. Miller began his music career at the age of 15 and grew popular with his mixtapes K.I.D.S. and Best Day Ever. He later on produced music for various artists under the pseudonym “Larry Fisherman.” His last album Swimming was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. 

Aretha Franklin

March 25, 1942- August 16, 2018

Died of pancreatic cancer

Known as the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin is universally acclaimed as one of America’s greatest singers of any style. She utilized her music as a medium for activism and fought for truth, justice, and soul. Her most popular songs are “Respect,” “Freeway of Love,” and “I Say a Little Prayer.” 

Steve Jobs

February 24, 1955- October 5, 2011

Died of pancreatic cancer 

American inventor, industrial designer, and entrepreneur. Most known for being a co-founder, chief executive, and chairman of Apple Computer. He also is known for starting Pixar Animation Studios. His device company, Apple, is now seen and used by millions worldwide. 

Nelson Mandela

July 18, 1918- December 5, 2013

Died of a prolonged respiratory infection 

The Nobel Peace Prize winner is best known for his fight against apartheid in South Africa during the late 50s to 90s. He was imprisoned for 27 years for his political offenses and lead peaceful campaigns against the racist South African government policies. He became the first elected Black president of South Africa after apartheid ended. 

Muhammed Ali

January 17, 1942- June 3, 2016

Died of septic shock

The world-famous boxer is known for his impressive 56-win record and his public stance against the Vietnam War. He is seen as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century and became an Olympic gold medalist and world heavyweight boxing champion. He later on won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his work in philanthropy. 

Stan Lee

December 28, 1922- November 12, 2018

Died of cardiac arrest and congestive heart failure 

The well-known comic-book author is most known for creating many Marvel superheroes and their stories such as Spider-Man, Thor, the Hulk, and many more. In addition, he worked to help develop the Marvel superhero movies and other comic-related business and multimedia ventures.

Robin Williams

July 21, 1951- August 11, 2014 

Died of suicide

The comedian and actor was most known for his work in Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, and more. He worked in multiple films and received many award nominations and awards, most notable being his Academy Award for best supporting actor in Good Will Hunting

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