A Look Back at Notable Deaths in 2005

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Weekend Edition offers a remembrance of some notable people who died this year, from activists to political leaders.


This past year from Iraq to Darfur to Chechnya, in Colombia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Liberia and dozens of other countries around the world, carnage brought by human beings left hundreds of thousands of people dead from the violence of war and its all too common adjuncts, starvation and exposure. But in 2005, the carnage brought by humans fell short of Mother Nature's fury. As the year began, we learned that the Indian Ocean tsunami at the end of 2004 claimed at least 230,000 lives and left millions of people homeless.

The October earthquake in South Asia claimed at least 83,000 lives. Another 3.5 million people now face winter in remote mountain villages with only tents for shelter.

Hurricanes in the United States claimed at least 1,200 lives in 2005. Typhoons and tropical storms claimed hundreds, perhaps thousands more throughout the Caribbean, along the Central American coast of the Gulf of Mexico and in the South Pacific.

And in a year of staggering death tolls from war and natural disasters, some individual deaths stood out around the world. In China, former Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang died. Zhao fell from favor in 1989 after he supported student protests in Tiananmen Square.

German boxer Max Schmeling and soccer legend George Best died as did British prime ministers Edward Heath and James Callaghan. In Africa, Sudanese rebel turned vice president John Garang was killed in a helicopter crash shortly after he joined the government.

Literary lights Saul Bellow, John Fowles and Arthur Miller died in 2005, as did gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson.

From television, news anchor Peter Jennings and late-night host Johnny Carson, entertainers Richard Pryor, Eddie Albert, Ann Bancroft, Pat Morita, Ossie Davis and Bob Denver, lawyer and late-night advertiser Johnny Cochran died. Holocaust survivor Simon Weisenthal died after more than half a century hunting Nazis and helping to bring them to justice. And at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II died after leading the Roman Catholic Church for a quarter century.

In the United States, one of the great icons of the 20th century died in October. Nearly 50 years before, on December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus. In turn, she gave image and voice to the American civil rights movement. Rosa Parks recounted the moment on NPR 25 years ago.

Ms. ROSA PARKS: It was on the ...(unintelligible) three people got on and--five white people got on and occupied the remaining vacant seats in the front of the bus. And there was one man left standing and the driver asked if I was going to stand up. I told him, no, I wasn't. And he said, `Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have you arrested, call the police and have you arrested.'

HANSEN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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