They both carved out sterling reputations as military and political leaders over years of public service. But both also saw their legacies tarnished by their actions in the long, bloody war in Iraq.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are among the many noteworthy people who died in 2021.
Powell, who died in October, was a trailblazing soldier and diplomat. He rose to the rank of four-star general in the Army before becoming the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And under former President George W. Bush, he became the nation’s first Black secretary of state.
Rumsfeld, who died in June, had a storied career in government under four U.S. presidents and was seen as a visionary of a modern military.
Rumsfeld was secretary of defense and shouldered some of the blame as Iraq sank into chaos after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime. In the leadup to the war, Powell cited faulty information during a United Nations Security Council address while claiming Hussein had secretly stashed weapons of mass destruction.
Others political figures the world said goodbye to this year include former U.S. Vice President Walter F. Mondale, former South African President F.W. de Klerk, former Sen. Bob Dole, former South Korean President Roh Tae-woo, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, former Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, former Danish Prime Minister Poul Schlueter and Iranian ambassadors Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour and Ardeshir Zahedi.
Also among those who died this year was a man who held the title of baseball’s home run king for years. Hank Aaron, who died in January, endured racist threats on his path to breaking Babe Ruth’s record and is still considered one of the game’s greatest players.
Other sports figures who died in 2021 include Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda, college football coach Bobby Bowden, Olympic swimmer Clara Lamore Walker, NBA players Paul Westphal and Elgin Baylor, auto racer Bobby Unser, golfer Lee Elder, track and field star Milkha Singh and boxer Leon Spinks.
Among the entertainers who died this year was a children’s author whose books were enjoyed by millions around the world. Beverly Cleary, who died in March, channeled memories from her youth in Oregon to created beloved characters such as Ramona Quimby, her sister Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby and Henry Huggins.
Others from the world of arts and entertainment who died this year include actors Cicely Tyson, Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman, Christopher Plummer, Olympia Dukakis, Ned Beatty, Jane Powell, Sonny Chiba, Gavin MacLeod, George Segal, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Johnny Briggs and Dustin Diamond; magician Siegfried Fischbacher; Bollywood star Dilip Kumar; Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts; theater songwriter Stephen Sondheim; ballerina and actress Carla Fracci; rappers DMX and Biz Markie; artist Arturo Di Modica; telenovela writer Delia Fiallo; authors Anne Rice, Eric Carle, Joan Didion, bell hooks and Norton Juster; reggae musician Bunny Wailer; comedians Norm Macdonald and Paul Mooney; singers Pervis Staples and Sabah Fakhri; ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill; and filmmaker Richard Donner.