No death of a well-known person in 2011 surprised me more than that of Lee Roy Selmon. The best of the three football-playing Selmon brothers, Lee Roy died of a stroke on September 4 at the young age of 56. He, was just one of eight former pro athletes on my second annual Death List who died at early ages.
As a football player, Lee Roy was in a class by himself, first at the University of Oklahoma and later with the Tampa Bay Bucs of the NFL. He was such a powerful force that you would think he would live forever. He, like his brothers, Lucious and Dewey, made All-America as a defensive lineman at OU and later became All-Pro and an NFL Hall of Famer with the Bucs.
The other noted ex-pros who died in 2011: Harmon Killebrew (age 74), Matty Alou (72), John Mackey and Walt Hazzard (69), Joe Frazier (67), Bubba Smith (66) and Bob Forsch (61). Their early deaths sank the List’s average age from 83.8 years in 2010 to 76.2 in 2011. I published an article about that on November 5, “Early deaths of former pro athletes: What’s going on?”
Also on The list:
90s: Jack LaLanne, exercise guru (96), Sargent Shriver, founder of the Peace Corps (95), Betty Ford, former First Lady (93), Hugh Carey, ex-governor of New York and A. C. Nielsen Jr., TV ratings, and Andy Rooney, commentator on TV’s Sixty Minutes (all 92), jazz pianist George Shearing (91).
80s: Jane Russell, actress, and Mark Hatfield, Oregon senator, and Bill Keane, cartoonist, (all 89), Jackie Cooper, actor, and Don Fambrough, University of Kansas football coach and Cliff Robertson, actor, (all 88), Sidney Lumet, film director (86), Warren Christopher, U.S. cabinet member, and Lara Peters, Stalin’s daughter (both 85), Duke Snider, baseball player (84), Jack Kevorkian, assisted suicide doctor, and Peter Falk, actor, (both 83) and Dick Williams, baseball manager, and Al Davis , managing general partner of the NFL Oakland Raiders, (both 82).
70s: Elizabeth Taylor, actress, and Wes Covington, baseball player, (79), Jimmy Harris, quarterback at the University of Oklahoma (76), David Nelson, actor, (74), and Matty Alou, baseball player, (72).
60s: Kim Jong-Il, North Korea leader, (69).
50s: Steve Jobs, founder of Apple (56).