John Blake, 59, the former University of Oklahoma football player and coach who was the school’s first Black head coach in any sport, died Thursday in Dallas. Blake’s wife, Freda, said he had a “heart-related emergency” at his home and attempts to revive him failed.
Blake was hired as the Sooners’ head coach in December 1995. He had a 12-22 record in three seasons, but his recruiting success laid the foundation for the program’s resurgence. In 2000, Bob Stoops coached the Sooners to a national title with many players Blake brought in.
Blake was also two-time Super Bowl champion as a defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys. He won the second one under Barry Switzer, who coached him at Oklahoma.
Charles Evers, 97, who gave up life as a petty racketeer to succeed his assassinated brother Medgar Evers as a Mississippi civil rights leader in 1963, becoming the state’s first Black mayor since Reconstruction and a candidate for governor and U.S. senator, died Wednesday at his daughter’s home in Brandon, Mississippi. His death came five days after the passing of two other civil rights leaders, the Rev. C.T. Vivian and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.
Nearly a decade after he had been run out of Mississippi, Evers, galvanized by the assassination that had made his brother a civil rights martyr, quit the rackets, returned from Chicago and replaced Medgar as the Mississippi field director of the NAACP. He organized registration drives for Black voters, economic boycotts against white businesses and challenges to the state’s white Democratic Party structure. He became a nationally known civil rights figure in his own right.
Annie Ross, 89, who rose to fame as a jazz singer in the 1950s, struggled with personal problems in the ’60s, faded from the spotlight in the ’70s, reemerged as a successful character actress in the ’80s and finished her career as a cabaret mainstay, died Tuesday at her home in Manhattan.
Ross acted on stage, screen and television and recorded several well-received albums under her own name. But she remained best known for her tenure, from 1958 to 1962, as the high voice of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, probably the most successful vocal group in the history of jazz. They were unusual in that they derived most of their repertoire not from Tin Pan Alley but from jazz itself. The group’s specialty was putting lyrics to previously recorded jazz instrumentals, a practice known as vocalese.
John Lewis, 80, the Democratic Georgia congressman who played a 60-year, outsized role on America’s stage, from organizing lunch-counter sit-ins to becoming the face of political resistance to President Donald Trump, died July 17 after a battle with cancer.
Before the sit-ins and Freedom Rides, before nearly dying at the hand of an Alabama state trooper at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and before ascending to the top ranks of Democratic politics, Lewis wanted to be a preacher.
Lewis’ central role in the civil rights movement put an end to his pulpit dreams. But his moral clarity and unwavering commitment to nonviolence and the “beloved community” — a democracy of racial, social and economic equality — infused every chapter of his life. It also earned him the respect of a nation.
The Rev. C.T. Vivian, 95, an early and key adviser to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who organized pivotal civil rights campaigns and spent decades advocating for justice and equality, died July 17 in Atlanta.
Vivian began staging sit-ins against segregation in Peoria, Illinois, in the 1940s — a dozen years before lunch-counter protests by college students made national news. He met King soon after the budding civil rights leader’s leadership of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, and helped translate ideas into action by organizing the Freedom Rides that forced federal intervention across the South.
Zizi Jeanmaire, 96, ballerina, cabaret singer and actor whose gamin haircut, corseted costume and charismatic, erotic performance made an indelible impression in the 1949 ballet “Carmen,” died July 17 at home in Tolochenaz, Switzerland. During a six-decade career, Jeanmaire reinvented herself continuously, beginning as a classical dancer whose greatest roles were choreographed by her husband, Roland Petit, and who danced with Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, among other illustrious names.
Tony Elliott, 73, who started the Time Out global publishing empire in his mother’s London kitchen in 1968 with a capital investment of 70 pounds and a simple idea — tell people where they can see the right movie or band, or find a haircut or a falafel — died of lung cancer July 16 in London. Elliott’s creation grew into a worldwide enterprise, with businesses in 327 cities and 58 countries, including nearly 50 city magazines. Its websites draw 63 million unique visitors a month.