Famous People Who Died In 2021
UPDATED: Check out the famous people who died in 2022.
Recent celebrity deaths can be a bit dark to search on Google. However, when it comes to pop culture fanatics seeking information about celebrities that died today, inquiring minds want to know! So this list will serve as your reference for celebrities who died in 2021. If you’re wondering about a famous actor who just died, or what famous person died this year, you’ll certainly get the full story on recent Hollywood deaths here.
This list will cover actors who recently passed away, such as That '70s Show actress Tanya Roberts. She was sadly one of the first celebrities who died in 2021.
You can continue to check back throughout the year to keep tabs on what famous people died this year. You may be surprised by the celebs who died, and maybe even a little broken-hearted if you were a big fan.
Check back for most recent famous deaths, and all of the other celebrity deaths of 2021.
- Photo: Alan Light / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Beloved comedian and actress Betty White passed away on December 31, 2021, reportedly due to natural causes, just weeks before her milestone 100th birthday.
White had the longest-running career for any woman in TV; she appeared on various shows over eight decades, beginning in 1939. She was perhaps most known for her sitcom roles as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls.
She first started in radio, with appearances on Blondie, The Great Gildersleeve, and This Is Your FBI. From there, she moved on to the TV variety show Hollywood on Television, before making appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She got her starring role in The Betty White Show, but went on to star in a number of series, such as Hot in Cleveland, The Love Boat, Pound Puppies, The Bold and the Beautiful, and more.
White won five Emmy awards, a Grammy in 2012, and Screen Actors Guild awards. She starred in a myriad of films as well, including (but not limited to) The Proposal, Lake Placid, Ponyo, You Again, The Lorax, and Toy Story 4. She was set to celebrate her career, and life, with the special Betty White: 100 Years Young - A Birthday Celebration, which was to air on her 100th birthday (January 17, 2021).
- Age: Dec. at 99 (1922-2021)
- Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, USA
- Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Football legend John Madden passed away on December 28, 2021. No cause of death was given. He was 85.
Madden was one of the youngest coaches in NFL history, becoming coach of the Oakland Raiders in 1969, when he was 32. He became the NFL Coach of the Year, and led the Raiders to a Super Bowl title in 1976. He was the second-winningest coach in NFL history, retired from coaching when he was 42, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Madden became a pitchman in Miller Lite commercials in 1979, which led to him being invited to join CBS Sports as a commentator. He and Pat Summerall were the network's No. 1 NFL announcing team until Fox landed the TV rights to the NFL from CBS. He joined ABC's Monday Night Football in 2002, and worked on NBC's Sunday Night Football in 2005, making him the first sportscaster to work for all of the "Big Four" TV networks. Madden ended up calling nine Super Bowl games. He won 16 Sports Emmy Awards for outstanding sports personality, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
He's also famous for being the name in football video games, after the John Madden Football debut in 1988 via EA Sports. The name changed in 1993 to Madden NFL, and has sold more than 100 million units.
- Age: Dec. at 85 (1936-2021)
- Birthplace: Austin, Minnesota, United States of America
- Photo: United States Congress / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Former US Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada passed away on December 28, 2021, due to pancreatic cancer. He was 82.
Political reporter Jon Ralston reported the news via Twitter, posting, "BREAKING: Harry Reid, probably the most important elected official in Nevada history, has died at 82. My condolences to his family and friends."
Reid was one of the Senate’s longest-serving majority leaders. He served from 2006 to 2014, then retired from politics in 2017. He was elected Senate Democratic whip in 1998, and the Senate Democratic leader in 2004. He spoke his mind, famously calling George W. Bush, when he was sitting president, a "liar" and a "loser," and accused Mitt Romney of not paying his taxes.
One of his biggest accomplishments was unifying all 60 members of the Democratic caucus to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2009. Other victories included passing the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.
- Age: 83
- Birthplace: Searchlight, Nevada, United States of America
Desmond TutuPhoto: Benny Gool / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa passed away from cancer on December 26, 2021. He was 90.
Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s, and had been hospitalized a number of times since then to treat infections associated with his treatment.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his nonviolent opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Ten years later, he chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to unearth atrocities committed under apartheid.
He was known for his infectious giggle, and for becoming the face of the anti-apartheid movement while other leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned. Despite retiring from public life when he turned 79, he was still outspoken about issues, even once saying, "I wish I could shut up, but I can't, and I won't." Tutu accused the West of complicity in Palestinian suffering by remaining silent in 2008, and in 2013, he declared his support for gay rights.
- Age: Dec. at 90 (1931-2021)
- Birthplace: Klerksdorp, South Africa
- Photo: Alan Langford / Flickr / CC-BY-SA 2.0
Director Jean-Marc Vallée died suddenly at age 58 on December 26, 2021, reportedly due to a heart attack.
Vallée's feature debut was Liste Noire (Black List) in 1995, though his breakthrough came with C.R.A.Z.Y. in 2005, which won four Genie Awards in Canada. He went on to direct Dallas Buyers Club in 2013, a film starring Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey, both of whom received Golden Globe and Oscar awards for their performances. The film was also nominated for best picture, best original screenplay, as well as best film editing (which was also a nod for Vallée, under his alias, John Mac McMurphy). He also directed Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern in Wild, which received three Oscar nominations.
Next, he turned his attention to television, receiving the DGA Award and the Emmy for outstanding directing for HBO's limited series Big Little Lies. It won eight Emmys, including outstanding limited series, as well as four Golden Globes. Vallée also directed and executive-produced another HBO limited series, Sharp Objects, which went on to be nominated for eight Emmys.
- Age: Dec. at 58 (1963-2021)
- Birthplace: Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Candy PalmaterPhoto: Denise Tompkins / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Canadian comedian Candy Palmater died on December 25, 2021, her wife and manager, Denise Tompkins, confirmed via a statement shared on Instagram. No cause of death was given. She was 53.
"I have few words. Candy passed away today at home suddenly. I will post information soon," Tompkins wrote, alongside a graphic that read, "A great glowing spirit left our world today." Though she did not give a cause of death, Palmater herself had shared posts from a hospital bed earlier in the month of December. On December 14, 2021, she revealed via social media that she had been diagnosed with eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA), a rare ailment caused by inflammation of blood and/or tissue cells. However, the following day, she posted that it was her last day in the hospital.
Palmater was best known for her work on Trailer Park Boys and for creating and co-hosting APTN series The Candy Show. She also appeared on Forgive Me and Sex & Violence, and narrated the documentaries Skindigenous and True North Calling.
- Age: Dec. at 53 (1968-2021)
- Birthplace: Dalhousie, Dalhousie Parish, New Brunswick, Canada