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Notable people who died in 2008

December 28, 2008

Tony Snow, 53; conservative writer and commentator cheerfully sparred with reporters in the White House briefing room during a stint as President George W. Bush's press secretary (July 12)

Paul Weyrich, 66; conservative thinker coined the phrase "moral majority," founded the Heritage Foundation and became an intellectual leader of the U.S. religious right (Dec. 18)

W. Mark Felt, 95; "Deep Throat" helped guide the Washington Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the Watergate scandal (Dec. 18)



Johnny Grant, 84; Hollywood's honorary mayor and biggest booster was known as host of the Walk of Fame induction ceremonies (Jan. 9)

Warren Cowan, 87; legendary Hollywood publicist was known as a pioneer of independent entertainment publicity for many of the biggest names in show business (May 14)

Bernie Brillstein, 77; talent manager and producer guided the careers of John Belushi and Jim Henson and helped bring "Saturday Night Live" to television (Aug. 7)


Inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs

Carl Karcher, 90; Orange County entrepreneur created the Carl's Jr. hamburger empire (Jan. 11)

Richard Knerr, 82; co-founder of toy company Wham-O Inc., maker of the Hula Hoop and the Frisbee (Jan. 14)

Gary Gygaz, 69; co-creator of the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons, which helped start the role-playing phenomenon (March 4)

Herb Peterson, 89; invented the Egg McMuffin as a way to introduce breakfast to McDonald's restaurants (March 25)

Irvine Robbins, 90; co-founder of Baskin-Robbins, whose penchant for creating unusual flavors pushed post-World War II America (May 5)

Robert Mondavi, 94; pioneering Napa Valley vintner whose drive and salesmanship revolutionized perceptions about California wines (May 16)

J.R. Simplot, 99; his fascination with potatoes helped change America's eating habits and made him a billionaire (May 25)

Carmen Rocha, 77; longtime waitress at Los Angeles' El Cholo Mexican restaurant is credited with introducing the city to nachos (Oct. 9)

Betty James, 90; wife of the Slinky's inventor gave the toy its name and later saved the business (Nov. 20)


Last one left

Erich Kaestner, 107; soldier believed to have been Germany's last veteran of World War I (Jan. 1)

Lazare Ponticelli, 110; France's last surviving veteran of World War I (March 12)


Law and scandal

Christian Brando, 49; son of acting legend Marlon Brando who was found guilty of killing his half-sister's lover (Jan. 26)

Ruth Greenglass, 84; her testimony in a Cold War espionage trial helped send sister-in-law Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair (April 7)

Martha "Sunny" von Bulow, 76; spent nearly 28 years in a coma after what prosecutors alleged were two murder attempts by her husband (Dec. 6)


Music leaders

John Stewart, 68; singer-songwriter wrote the Monkees' hit "Daydream Believer," was part of the Kingston Trio and had a significant solo career (Jan. 19)

Israel "Cachao" Lopez, 89; Cuban bassist and composer credited with pioneering the mambo style of music (March 22)

Eddy Arnold, 89, country music superstar transformed the genre from a rural phenomenon into music with a broad-based national appeal (May 8)

Bo Diddley, 79; rock and blues musician helped cast the sonic template of rock with a signature syncopated rhythm (June 2)

Issac Hayes, 65; seminal figure in R & B and soul music who wrote theme for "Shaft" (Aug. 10)

Don Helms, 81; steel guitarist whose aching instrumental cry gave voice to the anguish and joy in virtually all the key recordings by Hank Williams (Aug. 11)

Jerry Wexler, 91; coined the term "rhythm and blues" and discovered Aretha Franklin as an Atlantic Records executive (Aug. 15)

Norman Whitfield, 68; songwriter and producer helped shape the direction of Motown Records in the 1960s and '70s. (Sept. 16)

Nick Reynolds, 75; founding member of the Kingston Trio who jump-started the revival folk scene of the late 1950s (Oct. 1)

Levi Stubbs, 72; Four Tops frontman whose dynamic and emotive voice drove such Motown classics as "Reach Out [I'll Be There]" and "Baby I Need Your Loving" (Oct. 17)

Miriam Makeba, 76; South African singer wooed the world with a beautiful voice but was banned from her country for anti-apartheid activities (Nov. 10)

Odetta Holmes, 77; folk singer was a voice of the civil rights movement and championed black history (Dec. 2)

Elmer Valentine, 85; co-founder of Whiskey a Go Go, the legendary West Hollywood night club (Dec. 3)

Eartha Kitt, 81; sultry singer, dancer and self-proclaimed "sex kitten" famous for her catlike purr (Dec. 25)


Television figures

Earle H. Hagen, 88; Emmy Award-winning television composer wrote the memorable theme music for "The Andy Griffith Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (May 26)

Tim Russert, 58; he pointedly but politely questioned hundreds of influential guests as moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press" (June 13)

Larry Harmon, 83; entrepreneur brought Bozo the Clown to television as a children's show host in the late 1950s (July 3)

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