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.
Here is a roll call of some influential figures who died in 2021 (cause of death cited for younger people, if available):
Sheldon Adelson, 87. He rose from a modest start as the son of an immigrant taxi driver to become a billionaire Republican powerbroker with a casino empire and influence on international politics. Jan. 11.
Larry King, 87. The suspenders-sporting everyman whose broadcast interviews with world leaders, movie stars and ordinary people helped define American conversation for a half-century. Jan. 23.
George P. Shultz, 100. The former secretary of state was a titan of American academia, business and diplomacy who spent most of the 1980s trying to improve Cold War relations with the Soviet Union and forging a course for peace in the Middle East. Feb. 6.
Rush Limbaugh, 70. The talk radio host who ripped into liberals and laid waste to political correctness with a merry brand of malice that made him one of the most powerful voices on the American right. Feb. 17.
Vernon Jordan, 85. He rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to become a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer. March 1.
Roger Mudd, 93. The longtime political correspondent and anchor for NBC and CBS who once stumped Sen. Edward Kennedy by simply asking why he wanted to be president. March 9.
Bill Brock, 90. A former senator from Tennessee whose long career in Washington included a key role in rebuilding the Republican Party after the Watergate scandal. March 25.
- Gordon Liddy, 90. A mastermind of the Watergate burglary and a radio talk show host after emerging from prison. March 30.
Prince Philip, 99. The irascible and tough-minded husband of Queen Elizabeth II who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife in a role that both defined and constricted his life. April 9.
Walter F. Mondale, 93. The former U.S. vice president was a liberal icon who lost one of the most lopsided presidential elections after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won. April 19.
Michael Collins, 90. An Apollo 11 astronaut who orbited the moon alone while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their historic first steps on the lunar surface. April 28. Cancer.
Eli Broad, 87. The billionaire philanthropist, contemporary art collector and entrepreneur who co-founded homebuilding pioneer Kaufman and Broad Inc. and launched financial services giant SunAmerica Inc. April 30.
Olympia Dukakis, 89. The veteran stage and screen actor whose flair for maternal roles helped her win an Oscar as Cher’s mother in the romantic comedy “Moonstruck.” May 1.
John Warner, 94. He served for 30 years in the U.S. Senate and was a longtime military expert who became famous as the sixth man to walk down the aisle with movie star Elizabeth Taylor. May 25.
- Lee Bailey, 87. The celebrity attorney who defended O.J. Simpson, Patricia Hearst and the alleged Boston Strangler, but whose legal career halted when he was disbarred in two states. June 3.
Mike Gravel, 91. A former U.S. senator from Alaska who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record and confronted Barack Obama about nuclear weapons during a later presidential run. June 26.
Donald Rumsfeld, 88. The two-time defense secretary and one-time presidential candidate whose reputation as a skilled bureaucrat and visionary of a modern U.S. military was unraveled by the long and costly Iraq war. June 29.
Delia Fiallo, 96. She was considered the mother of Latin America’s telenovelas and wrote dozens of the popular television soap operas. June 29.
William H. Regnery II, 80. The heir to a family publishing fortune who was known for his quiet but influential support of extreme right-wing causes in the United States. July 2.
Edwin Washington Edwards, 93. The high-living, quick-witted four-term governor who reshaped Louisiana’s oil revenues and dominated the state’s politics for decades, a run all but overshadowed by scandal and eight years in federal prison. July 12.
Mike Enzi, 77. The retired U.S. senator and Wyoming Republican was known as a consensus-builder in an increasingly polarized Washington. July 26. Died after breaking his neck in a bicycle accident.
Carl Levin, 87. A powerful voice on military issues in Washington and a staunch supporter of the auto industry back home in Michigan during his tenure in the U.S. Senate. July 29.
Richard Trumka, 72. The powerful president of the AFL-CIO who rose from the coal mines of Pennsylvania to preside over one of the largest labor organizations in the world. Aug. 5.
Donald Kagan, 89. A prominent classical scholar, contentious defender of traditional education and architect of neo-conservative foreign policy. Aug. 6.
Abdul Qadeer Khan, 85. A controversial figure known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. Oct. 10.
Megan Rice, 91. A nun and Catholic peace activist who spent two years in federal prison while in her 80s after breaking into a government security complex to protest nuclear weapons. Oct. 10.
Hubert Germain, 101. The last of an elite group of decorated French Resistance fighters who helped liberate France from Nazi control in World War II. Oct. 12.
Betty Lynn, 95. The film and television actor who was best known for her role as Barney Fife’s sweetheart Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Oct. 16.
Colin Powell, 84. The trailblazing soldier and diplomat whose sterling reputation of service to Republican and Democratic presidents. Oct. 18.
Max Cleland, 79. He lost three limbs to a hand grenade in Vietnam and later became a groundbreaking Veterans Administration chief and U.S. senator from Georgia until an attack ad questioning his patriotism derailed his reelection. Nov. 9. Congestive heart failure.
Bob Dole, 98. He overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans. Dec. 5.