In the last week, many notable Americans have passed away. This article will cover a few of these amazing people from various walks of life that helped shape American culture and life in some way.


Vern Ehlers (1934-2017) was a Republican politician who represented the state of Michigan. He went to Cal Berkely where he got his Ph.D. in nuclear physics and ended up teaching physics at Calvin College for 16 years. Ehlers then served on the Kent County Board of Commissioners from 1975-82. He then was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, serving one term (1983-85).

Ehlers then served in the Michigan Senate for two terms from 1985-1993. He then was elected to the House of Representatives to serve the state's 3rd district via a special election in 1993. The next year he won a full term and was re-elected six times before retiring in 2011. Ehlers died on August 15 at age 83.


Joseph Bologna (1934-2017) was an actor, director, and writer. As an actor, he had over 70 credits to his name but is probably best known for his King Kaiser in “My Favorite Year.” Other well-known roles include playing Joey in “The Women in Red” and Victor Lyons in “Blame It on Rio.” He also shared a nomination for an Oscar in 1971 due to his work as a writer for 1970's “Lovers and Other Strangers.” Bologna died on August 13 at age 82 from pancreatic cancer.

Sonny Landham (1941-2017) was an actor, best known for his deep voice and action movies. He had almost 60 film credits to his name but was best-known for playing Billy in the 1987 movie “Predator.” Other notable roles include playing Billy Bear in the 1982 film “48 Hrs.” and playing Chink in the 1989 movie “Lock Up.” Landham died on August 17 at age 76 due to congestive heart failure.

Dick Gregory (1932-2017) was a comedian and also a civil rights activist. He was drafted into the army in 1954 and during his almost two-year stint there realized he wanted to be a comedian. In the early 1960s he was spotted by Hugh Hefner while performing stand up and was given a job at the Chicago Playboy Club, which Gregory said helped launch his career.

He soon became one of the first African-American comedians to find success among white audiences during the civil rights movement. As the 1960s went on he became more involved in activism for civil rights, the Vietnam War, and other causes, remaining an activist for the rest of his life. Later in life, he founded Health Enterpises Inc. and wrote several books including a memoir and autobiography. Gregory died on August 19 at age 84.


Frank Boyles (1924-2017) was a college coach and later administrative director (AD). Boyles got his first head coaching job at Missouri in 1957, going 5-4-1. He was then offered the job as head coach of Arkansas which he took, spending the next 19 seasons (1958-76) there.

While at the school he compiled a record of 144-58-5 and won the Southwestern Conference 7 times.

His best season came in 1964 when the team went 11-0, culminating in a 10-7 win over No. 6 Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl. That year Arkansas was named national champions and Boyles won Coach of the Year honors. In 1974, Boyles became AD at the school and would step down from coaching to focus on that job full-time in 1976.

As AD he led an overhaul of the team's facilities and facilitated their move into the SEC. On New Year's Eve 2007, he stepped down from his position as AD to retire. In 1983, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Boyles died on August 14 at age 92 from complications due to Alzheimer's disease.

Lester Williams (1959-2017) was a defensive tackle who played six seasons (1982-87) in the NFL. He starred at the University of Miami, earning All-American honors, and was drafted in the first-round by the New England Patriots. Williams spent his first four seasons with the Patriots and was a member of their 1985 team that reached the Super Bowl.

He then spent his last two seasons with the San Deigo Chargers and Seattle Seahawks. In 1999, he was inducted into the Miami Sports Hall of Fame. Williams died on August 16 at age 58.

Tommy Hawkins (1936-2017) was a basketball player who spent 10 seasons (1959-69) in the NBA. In college, he starred at Notre Dame -- becoming the first African-American player to earn All-American honors at the school.

He spent his first season and last 3 seasons playing for the Lakers, with the 4 years in the middle being spent with the Cincinnati Royals.

During his NBA career, the forward averaged 8.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. Following his career, Hawkins did local broadcasts of Lakers games and was the L.A. Dodgers VP of communications from 1987-2004. In 2015, he was inducted into Notre Dame's ring of honor. Hawkins died on August 16 at age 80.