This story was updated at 3pm on December 31, 2021.
As we close the books on 2021, the year leaves stories for the future: an awakening from the pandemic, renewed attention to public school classrooms, and indications that the 2022 elections could bring a Republican wave. While we look toward the future, we acknowledge some of the noteworthy people who left us in 2021, including two former presidential candidates, historic military leaders, and titans of broadcasting.
Betty White, 99: Icon and beloved actress Betty White, set to turn 100 on Jan. 17, passed away on New Year’s Eve at her home. She was a TV star for decades, including high-profile roles on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls.” A film of the 100-year celebration of her life was set to screen in movie theaters on her birthday.
Sam Jones, 88: Basketball star from N.C. Central University and the Boston Celtics, Sam Jones passed away during the last week of 2021. Nicknamed “Mr. Clutch,” Jones earned 10 championships in the pros and coached at NCCU for one year, in addition to mentoring many young players.
Bob Dole, age 98: A former Republican senator and presidential candidate, Dole served 25 years in the Senate. He was Republicans’ vice presidential nominee in 1976 and the GOP presidential candidate in 1996, losing to Bill Clinton. Dole was widely considered a statesman and war hero, so tough he survived after being left for dead on the battlefield in World War II. Known for his sense of humor, he is survived by his wife of 45 years, Elizabeth, who served as U.S. senator representing North Carolina from 2003 to 2009.
Walter Mondale, 93: The vice president to President Jimmy Carter and 1984 Democrat presidential candidate, Mondale lost to Ronald Reagan by one of the biggest margins in American history after telling voters he would raise taxes. Reagan won all states except Washington, D.C., and Mondale’s home of Minnesota.
Colin Powell, 84: former national security adviser under Reagan, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H.W. Bush, and secretary of state for George W. Bush, Powell later used his name and political clout to elect Democrats, including helping Barack Obama win the White House.
Donald Rumsfeld, 88: The defense secretary who served under presidents Gerald Ford and then George W Bush during the time after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, images of Rumsfeld personally pulling victims out of the Pentagon on that morning remain a legacy. He also served as a three-term congressman and was lead sponsor of the Freedom of Information Act.
Walter Williams, 84: A well-known conservative economist, author, political commentator, and professor at George Mason University, Williams shed light on the argument that invasive government entitlement programs ultimately harm minority groups.
Richard Stroup, 78: Stroup, of Raleigh, was one of the originators of New Resource Economics, the academic approach behind what is popularly known as free-market environmentalism. This approach recognizes that many environmental problems stem from poorly defined or poorly defended property rights. The positive role of property rights in environmental protection is now accepted by many economists, environmentalists, and policymakers.
George Shultz, 100: Having served as a cabinet member for Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, Shultz helped shape U.S. economic and foreign policy in the late 20th century. His alma mater Stanford University describes him as one of the most influential secretaries of state in American history. He was a key player in changing the direction of history by using the tools of diplomacy to bring the Cold War to an end.
Rush Limbaugh, 70: The ground-breaking conservative talk radio host became one of the most powerful voices in American politics and was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump during his 2020 State of the Union speech.
John Madden, 85: The former coach of the Oakland Raiders professional football team, Madden led the team to a Super Bowl championship in 1976, was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2006, and went on to become one of the most influential sports broadcasters of all time.
Larry King, 87: The suspender-clad CNN broadcaster known for his conversations with world leaders and movie stars, King conducted more than 50,000 interviews over his career.
Gordon Liddy, 90: Convicted in the Watergate burglary after refusing to testify, Liddy served four-and-a-half years in prison. He later became a radio talk show host, author, and in-demand public speaker.
Bernard “Bernie” Madoff, 82: The Ponzi scheme architect served 12 years of a 150-year sentence in a U.S. detention facility in Butner after being convicted in 2009 of a financial swindle that cost thousands of investors their life savings.
John Warner, 94: One of the longest-serving senators in history, Warner represented Virginia for 30 years. A Republican and former secretary of the Navy, he was a leading authority on military issues.
Max Cleland, 79: The Democrat senator from Georgia lost three limbs in Vietnam and served as the lead of the Veterans Administration under President Jimmy Carter.
Vernon Jordan, 85: A Democrat and political power broker in Washington, D.C., who began his career in the civil rights movement and later became an influential lawyer and lobbyist, Jordan was a close confidant of former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary.
Stonewall Jackson, 89: The North Carolina-born country music legend was a member of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville for over 60 years. A few of his biggest hits were “Waterloo” and “Why I’m Walkin’.”
Betty Lynn, 95: Lynn played Thelma Lou, Barney Fife’s longtime girlfriend on “The Andy Griffith Show” from 1960 – 1966. She died in Mount Airy.
Harry Reid, 82: Reid, representing Nevada, served in Congress over three decades and was U.S. Senate Majority Leader from 2009 – 2015.