By Hill Douglas, Staff Writer
The year 2016 was by no means an uneventful year, highlighted by the presidential election, world events, sports headlines and the unfortunate deaths of many celebrities who were able to make tremendous impacts in the world during their lifetimes. Merle Haggard, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer and many more are among the celebrities taken from us over the course of the year.
The music industry may have taken the biggest hit, losing legends like Merle Haggard, Prince and David Bowie. Haggard and Prince, both leaving very different legacies, died within 15 days of each other in April 2016, leaving fans all across the music industry in mourning.
Merle Ronald Haggard died on April 6, 2016 from pneumonia complications at his ranch in Palo Cedro, California. In his 79 years of life, he overcame a difficult childhood to become one of the greatest country musicians of all time. In and out of prison in his early years, he was able to turn his life around through his musical talents. Hit songs like “Mama Tried,” “Okie From Muskogee,” and “Fightin’ Side of Me” will forever be esteemed as some of the best country records ever recorded.
Senior Ben Burrows who is a member of local band Carolina Crossing credits Haggard to being an influence in his musical endeavors.
“He was one of the best musicians ever, and truest country musicians we have ever seen,” Burrows said. “He paved the way for a huge growth in country music’s popularity. Although his style is a bit different from mine, his career was a great influence to me, and it is unfortunate that country music lost one of the greatest to ever do it.”
Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were among the biggest deaths of the year as well. Carrie Fisher, best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, passed away on December 27th, 2016 at 60 years old. Debbie Reynolds, her mother, died just one day later on December 28 at 84 years old. She was known for her performances in “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Charlotte’s Web.” The uncanny deaths of the famous mother and daughter shocked the entire world, taking place just one day apart.
The sports industry also lost multiple athletes in 2016, many of whom were influential outside of their sport as well. Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer were perhaps the most heartbreaking of the many accomplished athletes who died.
Local legend Arnold Daniel Palmer died on September 25, 2016 at 87 years old, leaving behind a legacy that will remain forever. The 1960 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year collected 76 professional victories, seven major victories (including four at the Masters) and numerous awards throughout his career.
“He really seemed to put the sport on the map,” AP Psychology teacher Scottie House said, crediting Palmer with popularizing golf.
Away from the golf course, Arnold Palmer will leave a legacy as well. He has also received numerous awards like the Payne Stewart Award, a PGA Tour award that recognizes character and sportsmanship on tour, as well as charitable acts away from golf. He has also received the Presidential Award of Freedom in 2004, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
This past year saw the unfortunate passing of boxer Muhammad Ali as well, on June 3, 2016. Ali is considered to be the best boxer of all time, boasting a career record of 56 wins and 5 losses, and a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. To some people though, he left behind a bigger impact from his activism rather than boxing, being a lifelong advocate for religious and racial matters. He will also go down with some of the greatest quotes ever spoken to his name.
“I’ll miss him because he can ‘float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’” junior Myeisha Glover said, referencing one of his most famous quotes.
The year 2016 unfortunately saw the deaths of hundreds of influential celebrities that will be missed by many fans around the world. In terms of celebrity deaths, we can only hope 2017 will be better.
Photo from Mirror.