Passings 2007: Newsmakers & Notables

Lady Bird Johnson
Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson outlived her husband, Lyndon, by more than 35 years, expanding on her White House efforts to carve her own legacy as an environmentalist.

When she died July 11 at age 94, she left behind countless miles of scenic highways across the United States, dotted not by billboards and junkyards but by wildflowers.

She is one of the political figures, artists, businessmen and heroes to whom we said goodbye in 2007.

Boris Yeltsin struggled to bring stability and freedom to the former Soviet Union. Wally Schirra reached for the stars as one of the original team of Mercury astronauts.

We lost authors Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut and David Halberstam three men whose writings were shaped by war and found eager audiences in the Vietnam era.

The music world mourned Beverly Sills and Luciano Pavarotti, who both appealed to the masses as well as opera buffs; the great classical cellist Mstislav Rostropovich; and drummer Max Roach, hailed as a genius by fellow jazzmen.

Directors Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni -- Europeans who championed the art of cinema rather than Hollywood glitter -- died on the same day. We also lost the Senegalese director Sembene Ousmane, a film pioneer in Africa.

In terms of cable news interest, the death of model-reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith overshadowed just about anyone else's. Other colorful newsmakers who died included daredevil Evel Knievel and "queen of mean" Leona Helmsley.

Their styles differed, but the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Tammy Faye Messner both brought their religious faith to bear on the wider world.

The sports world said goodbye to longtime Grambling coach Eddie Robinson, Hall of Fame jockey Bill Hartack and to NFL players Darrent Williams and Sean Taylor, both shot to death before their 25th birthday.

In business, we lost the founders or co-founders of Nasdaq, the Gallo wine-making empire, Bob Evans restaurants, Motel 6 and the Body Shop, the environmental cosmetics chain.

The political world lost former Sens. Thomas Eagleton and George Smathers, as well as Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt. Columnists Art Buchwald and Molly Ivins brightened their writing with humor but never forgot the serious side of life.