United States Information Agency / Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

Jackie Robinson

(Baseball Player)

31 January 1919 – 24 October 1972 (Aged 53)

Robinson was a groundbreaking American baseball second baseman who became the first African-American to break the color barrier and play Major League Baseball in the 20th century.

In his first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers, 1947, he won Rookie of the Year.

He went on to win 6 consecutive All-Star awards, was named the league’s MVP in 1949, and helped the Dodgers win the 1955 World Series.

Outside of sport, Robinson was a vocal civil rights activist, making a significant contribution to promoting social change in America.

He became the first black vice-president of a major U.S. corporation, Chock Full o’Nuts.

In 1962, Robinson became the first African-American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He died at the young age of 53 from heart and diabetic problems.

In 1997, his number 42 was retired across all Major League Baseball teams, the first sporting person to receive such an honor.

Jackie Robinson Day is celebrated on April 15 each year, the date of his debut, by all players wearing the number 42 shirt.

Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2005 by President George W. Bush.

J. Edgar Hoover

(FBI Director)

By Marion S. Trikosko / Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

1 January 1895 – 2 May 1972 (Aged 77)

Hoover was the first Director of the FBI, after playing a key role in its founding, serving from 1935 until his death 37 years later.

During his term as director, Hoover gained a reputation for fighting gangsters and was famously anti-communist.

He also illegally used the agency’s resources to compile files against his political enemies and others he suspected of wrong-doing.

Hoover died of a heart attack at the age of 77.  

In order to avoid abuses of power similar to Hoover, FBI directors had their terms limited to a ten-year stint, subject to extension by the U.S. Senate.

The FBI headquarters in Washington, DC is named in Hoover’s honor, though this has been challenged due to his mixed legacy.

Louis Leakey


Smithsonian Institution / Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

7 August 1903 – 1 October 1972 (Aged 69)

Leakey was a famous Kenyan paleoanthropologist.

He is renowned for his work in uncovering aspects of human evolution in Africa, largely through fossil excavations at Olduvai Gorge.

He worked in conjunction with his wife, Mary, renowned in her own right.

At the age of 69, Leakey died of a heart attack.

Max Fleischer


  Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

19 July 1883 – 11 September 1972 (Aged 89)

Fleischer was an influential and pioneering American animator.

He was responsible for creating the cartoon characters Popeye, Betty Boop, and Koko the Clown.

In addition to his animating talents, Fleischer invented the rotoscope.

He died at the age of 80 from Arterial Sclerosis of the brain.

Igor Sikorsky


  Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

25 May 1889 – 26 October 1972 (Aged 83)

Sikorsky was an influential Russian aviation pioneer.

He was responsible for inventing and flying the world’s first working helicopter and also developing the first four-engine airplane.

In 1919, Sikorsky emigrated to the United States and went to form what became The Sikorsky Aviation Corporation, which is still one of the world’s top manufacturers of helicopters.

In 1966, Sikorsky was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.

Mahalia Jackson


By Carl Van Vechten / Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

26 October 1911 – 27 January 1972 (Aged 70)

Jackson was a hugely influential American gospel singer and civil rights’ activist. Such was the esteem in which she was held, Jackson was often referred to as the ‘Queen of Gospel’.

In an extremely successful career, Jackson’s 1947 song ‘Movin on up a Little Higher’ became the biggest selling gospel song of all time.

She also sang at the 1963 March on Washington, as well as at Martin Luther King’s funeral.

In her later years, Jackson suffered numerous health problems, before dying from heart and diabetic issues at the age of 70.

Reflecting her impact on the public, tens of thousands of people attended her funeral.

Harry S. Truman

(U.S. President)

GoodFreePhotosCC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

8 May 1884 – 26 December 1972 (Aged 88)

Truman had been U.S. vice-president for less than 3 months when the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt saw him become the 33rd President of the United States.

After being in office for a matter of months, Truman oversaw the first-ever use of atomic bombs, dropping them on Nagasaki & Hiroshima, shortly before the official end of World War II.

Following the war, Truman was responsible for putting Marshall Plan in motion to help rebuild the European economy.

He was also a key player in the founding of NATO and the United Nations.

In 1947, his Truman Doctrine, a U.S. foreign policy to help stop the spread of communism, is often credited with being the start of the Cold War, and ultimately led the U.S. into the Korean War in 1950.

Truman died from multiple organ failures, after suffering from pneumonia, at the age of 88.