(Civil Rights Activist)
4 February 1913 – 24 October 2005 (Aged 92)
Parks was a civil rights activist best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The United States Congress has called her “the mother of the freedom movement”.
On December 1, 1955, Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
This spurred on the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott which helped efforts to end segregation of public facilities. You can read more about the event here.
Parks was not the first person to resist bus segregation, but the NAACP decided she was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after her arrest in violation of Alabama segregation laws.
After the boycott, Parks worked as secretary and receptionist to African-American US Representative John Conyers from 1965 to 1988. She was also active in the Black Power movement.
In recognition of her role in the civil rights movement, Parks received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a posthumous statue in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
Parks died of natural causes at the age of 92 in her Detroit home. Time magazine named Parks one of the 20 most influential and iconic figures of the 20th century.
Pope John Paul II
18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005 (Aged 84)
John Paul II, born Karol Józef Wojtyla in Poland, served as Pope from 1978 to 2005, becoming the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years.
John Paul II visited 129 countries, beatified 1,340 people, and canonized 483 saints, a figure greater than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding 500 years.
John Paul II was the second longest-serving pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX, who served for almost 32 years.
During his papacy, John Paul II apologized to many groups that had suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church over the years.
However, he has been heavily criticized for his role in covering up child sex abuse by members of the church.
In his final years, John Paul II’s health declined as he suffered from Parkinson’s disease before he died from heart failure at the age of 84.
In April 2014, John Paul II was canonized, after a number of miracles were attributed to him.
22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005 (Aged 59)
Best was a legendary Northern Irish professional footballer who played as a winger for Manchester United.
He is regarded as one of the greatest dribblers in history before his hard-partying lifestyle led to a sharp decline in his performances.
In 1968, after winning the European Cup with Manchester United, Best was named the European Footballer of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year. He was United’s top goalscorer for five consecutive seasons.
In 1974, Best quit United at the age of 27, and though he went on to play for a number of clubs around the world in short spells, he never reached the highs of his earlier career.
In international football, Best was capped 37 times, scoring nine goals, and is often cited as being the greatest player never to play in a major international tournament.
Best was one of the first celebrity footballers, also suffering alcoholism throughout his life. In 2002, he underwent a liver transplant but continued to drink before dying at the of age 59, from multiple organ failure.
In 2006, Belfast City Airport was renamed the George Best Belfast City Airport in his honor.
1 December 1940 – 10 December 2005 (Aged 65)
Pryor was a groundbreaking African-American comedian, widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time.
During his career, Pryor won an Emmy Award and five Grammy Awards. Among his best-loved shows are Richard Pryor: Live & Smokin’, Richard Pryor: Live in Concert, Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip, as well as numerous films.
Pryor had a tough start to life, born to a prostitute who was periodically absent in his life, while his father was a notoriously violent pimp.
For much of his childhood, he was raised in the brothel where his mother worked, by his grandmother.
Pryor was an avid supporter of animal rights, being outspoken against animal testing of any kind and the mistreatment of elephants in circuses.
He also had a long history of substance abuse and stormy relationships, marrying 7 times.
In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but continued to perform for several more years before dying of a heart attack at the age of 65 in 2005.
In 2006, Pryor was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him first on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time.
(Chat Show Host)
23 October 1925 – 23 January 2005 (Aged 79)
Carson was an iconic American television personality best known as the host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1962 until 1992.
During World War II, Carson served in the Navy decoding encrypted messages as a communications officer, before being assigned to combat in the summer of 1945.
However, the war ended before Carson had the chance to go into battle.
A lauded media career followed, seeing Carson receive 6 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and an induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987.
It is estimated Carson’s final appearance as host in 1992 attracted 50 million viewers. Later that year, Carson was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Carson was a heavy smoker for many decades and died from respiratory failure at the age of 79. He is widely considered to be one of the most popular stars in American television history.
17 October 1915 – 10 February 2005 (Aged 89)
Miller was an American playwright, considered one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century.
Among Miller’s best-known plays are ‘All My Sons,’ ‘The Crucible’, the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Death of a Salesman’, and his screenplay for The Misfits.
In 1957, after refusing to comply with the House Un-American Activities Committee, Miller was given a fine, a prison sentence, blacklisted and disallowed a US passport. The conviction was later overturned by the U.S. court of appeals.
in 1956, Miller married Marilyn Monroe, after divorcing his first wife, Mary. However, shortly before the film premiere of The Misfits in 1961, which was written by Miller and starred Monroe, Miller and Monroe divorced after five years.
The following year, Miller married Inge Morath, which lasted until her death in 2002. In 1979, Miller was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
He died of bladder cancer and heart failure at the age of 89.
31 December 1908 – 20 September 2005 (Aged 96)
Wiesenthal was a Jewish Austrian Holocaust survivor and author, who became a renowned Nazi hunter after the war.
During World War II, Wiesenthal survived the concentration camps at Janowska, Kraków-Płaszów, Gross-Rosen, followed by a death march to Chemnitz, Buchenwald, and finally the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.
After the war, Wiesenthal dedicated his life to tracking down fugitive Nazi war criminals and bringing them to trial.
In 1947, he co-founded the Jewish Historical Documentation Centre in Linz, Austria, and Vienna in 1961.
Wiesenthal has also courted controversy, including allegations that he exaggerated his involvement in certain cases, such as the role he played in the capture of Adolf Eichmann, though he certainly played a part in the capture.
Among the many accolades bestowed on him, Wiesenthal received the Dutch and Luxembourg Medals of Freedom and the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor.
He died in his sleep at age 96.
17 September 1931 – 6 June 2005 (Aged 73)
Bancroft was a famous American actress best known for her roles in The Miracle Worker, The Elephant Man, and as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate.
During her career, Bancroft won one Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globes, two Tony Awards, and two Emmy Awards.
After a short-lived marriage in the 1950s, Bancroft married comedian and film director Mel Brooks in 1964, remaining together until her death in 2005.
Bancroft continued to act until the year before her death, having to withdraw from Adam Sandler’s Spanglish due to illness.
She died from cancer at the age of 73.
Hunter S. Thompson
18 July 1937 – 20 February 2005 (Aged 67)
Thompson was a renowned American journalist, and countercultural icon, who founded the gonzo journalism movement with his unique style of reporting.
In 1967, Thompson rose to prominence with the publication of his book Hell’s Angels, after spending a year living and riding with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in order to write a first-hand account of lives.
Thompson’s best-known book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was released in 1971, having first been serialized in Rolling Stone.
In it, he considers the implications of what he sees as the failure of the 1960s counterculture movement.
During his life, Thompson struggled with long-term alcohol and drug addiction, while he was also known for his love of firearms.
After a number of health problems, Thompson died by suicide at the age of 67.
His ashes were fired out of a cannon by his friend Johnny Depp in a ceremony attended by friends such as Senator John Kerry and Jack Nicholson.
2 October 1937 – 29 March 2005 (Aged 67)
Cochran was an American lawyer best known for his leading role in the defense at the trial and subsequent acquittal of O.J. Simpson, particularly for his argument “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
Among his numerous other high profile clients are Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, Riddick Bowe, 1992 Los Angeles riot beating victim Reginald Oliver Denny, and Marion Jones.
Following the Simpson trial, Cochran became a celebrity lawyer, making numerous tv appearances and writing a number of books, leading to him living a lavish lifestyle.
Cochran died from a brain tumor at the age of 67.