The older brother of comic Eddie Murphy, Charlie Murphy was an accomplished comic in his own right. While he is perhaps best known for his stint on “Chappelle’s Show,” he had been on The Comedy Get Down tour at the time of his death from leukemia at age 57.
A veteran Atlanta news anchor, Amanda Davis had a decades-long, award-winning career but was troubled by alcoholism. She opened up about her battle during her stint on CBS46, where she resurrected her career on her terms. After suffering a massive stroke, she died 24 hours later at 62.
Reggie ‘Combat Jack’ Ossé
A successful hip hop lawyer turned podcasting pioneer, Reggie ‘Combat Jack’ Ossé revolutionized the hip hop podcast space. Sitting down for hours with the likes of Chuck D and Ice-T, “The Combat Jack Show” had also launched an investigative series a la “60 Minutes.” Ossé was in his early 50s when he died of colon cancer.
Following the death of her father Eric Garner, whose choking death at the hands of a New York police officer led to public outcry, Erica Garner became an activist to end police brutality. After suffering a massive heart attack, which led her to be placed in a medically induced coma, the mother of two died at 27.
Comedian and activist Dick Gregory was a force in the 1960s as he used humor to make racial commentary during the decade. His career included TV appearances and books like “Murder in Memphis.” Gregory died at age 84 following a hospitalization for a severe bacterial infection.
Albert Johnson, better known as Prodigy, was one-half of rap duo Mobb Deep. He and fellow member Havoc released such singles as “Shook Ones” and “Quiet Storm” in the 1990s. Prodigy had been hospitalized for complications related to sickle cell anemia and reportedly died at age 42 after accidentally choking on eggs.
The president and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill, Lowell Hawthorne launched a franchise that had 120 stores and products available in 20,000 grocery stores nationwide. Jamaica-born Hawthorne made a splash appearing on the CBS series, “Undercover Boss” but over a year later, he died of suicide inside his Bronx, N.Y. warehouse.
Known for his role on the MTV reality show “Rob & Big,” Christopher “Big Black” Boykin appeared as skateboarder Rob Dyrdek’s bodyguard on the series. A heart attack claimed his life at age 45.
Melissa Bell rose to fame as the lead vocalist on the 1990s Brtish group Soul II Soul’s hit single “Wish.” She later left the band, which is known for the song, “Back to Life, Back to Reality,” and struggled with severe kidney failure for years stemming from diabetes. Bell’s daughter confirmed the 53-year-old’s death on Twitter.
Robert Guillaume was best known for his role at Benson in “Soap” and the character’s self-titled spin-off. He was also known for his work on “The Lion King” as Rafiki. On stage, his most notable act came from playing the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera.” Guillaume died of complications from prostate cancer at 89.
A legendary gospel singer, Della Reese was best known for her work on the 1990s series, “Touched By An Angel.” She retired from acting in 2014 following a lengthy career and died at 86 after battling a host of health issues, including diabetes.
A fan favorite on “Project Runway,” Mychael Knight didn’t win the competition but went on to launch his own self-titled fashion company. Upon his death at age 39, no cause was issued. However, Knight had been open about his battle with irritable bowel syndrome and extreme weight loss, the latter of which was evident in recent photos.
New Orleans native Fats Domino, the Godfather of Rock ‘n’ Roll, had a career that spanned several decades. His albums sold 110 million copies and included hit songs like “Blueberry Hill” and ”Shake, Rattle and Roll.” He inspired many musicians after him, including Little Richard, and earned honors like National Medal for the Arts before dying of natural causes at 89.
Bernie Casey made a successful jump from athlete to movie star. After playing as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams, he transitioned to a career on the big screen. Casey appeared in films including ”Brian’s Song,” “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” and “Never Say Never Again” along with TV shows like “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and ”Murder She Wrote.” He died at 78 after a short illness.
Known as a master choreographer, Chuck Davis was a teacher of traditional styles of African dance. He founded several dance companies in North Carolina and New York and had traveled to the motherland to study dance styles. His cause of death was not known but the 80-year-old was diagnosed and treated for cancer two years prior.
Broadway star novella Nelson, best known for her role in the film “Antoine Fisher,” died at age 77. The cause of death was not known initially but her daughter confirmed Nelson had died of cancer. Before then, Nelson had a lengthy stage career, appearing in “Purlie” and “Hello Dolly!” She also appeared on TV shows including “Law & Order: SVU” and “Damages.”
A Julliard-trained actor, Nelsan Ellis was best known for his portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds in “True Blood,” and more recently appeared on the series, “Elementary.” Ellis had a movie career, too, with roles in “The Butler,” “The Help” and the James Brown biopic, “Get On Up.” He also was a playwright and stage director and died at age 39 of heart failure due to alcohol withdrawal.