Nichelle Nichols: Five Things About The ‘Star Trek’ Icon Dead At 89

Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on 'Star Trek's original series and its film sequels, sadly died, according to a statement made by her son, Kyle Johnson, on July 31.

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Image Credit: Moviestore/Shutterstock

Nichelle Nichols, who was beloved for playing the iconic role of Nyota Uhura on the television series, Star Trek, and its films, died at the age of 89, Deadline reported. The actress’ death was announced by her son, Kyle Johnson, on July 31, according to the outlet, and journalist Yashar Ali took to Twitter to both announce the sad news and share Kyle’s message. “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” Kyle wrote in the beginning of the message.

Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols has died at the age of 89. (Moviestore/Shutterstock)

Find out more about the legendary star and her legacy below.

Nichelle sang with Duke Ellington.

Nichelle, who was born in Robbins, IL, once danced with jazz legend Duke Ellington in a ballet she created for one of his compositions. She also went on to sing with his band, making her mark as a musician in the jazz music industry. She discussed her time with Duke, including the important tidbits he told her, in the video above.

She was one of the first African American women to star in a major television series.

When she started playing her role on Star Trek, it was in 1966 and she made quite a lasting impression. In addition to the original series, she went on to star in the animated Star Trek series as well as film versions of the show. She also starred in many other television series and films, including popular ones like Gargoyles, Futurama, Heroes, Snow Dogs, and Are We There Yet?

Nichelle volunteered her time to promote NASA’s programs.

Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols looking gorgeous. (Shutterstock)

After Star Trek was cancelled, she devoted time to work with NASA to recruit minority and female personnel to the space agency. Part of what she did to help was to make an affiliation between NASA and a company called Women in Motion, which she helped run. Some of the people that were recruited were Dr. Sally Ride, who was the first American female astronaut, and United States Air Force Colonel Guion Bluford, the first African-American astronaut.

She went on to fly on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Boeing 747SP in 2015 and was a special guest at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, on July 17, 1976, to watch the Viking 1 soft landing on Mars. In the mid 1980s, Nichelle served on the board of governors of the National Space Institute, a nonprofit space advocacy organization.

President Barack Obama had a crush on her.

Nichelle revealed that when she met the now former U.S. president in the Oval Office in 2012, she asked him if the rumor that he had a crush on her when he was younger was true, and he said it was. “Months ago, [President] Obama was quoted as saying that he’d had a crush on me when he was younger,” she wrote in a tweet. “I asked about that and he proudly confirmed it! President Obama also confirmed for me that he was definitely a Trekker! How wonderful is that?!”

She also posted a photo of the two of them happily posing in the Oval Office, which can be seen here.

Nichelle wrote a tell-all autobiography in 1995.

'Star Trek'
Nichelle with some of her ‘Star Trek’ co-stars. (Moviestore/Shutterstock)

In the memorable release, she revealed never-before-known details about her life, including how she dated Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry for a few years before Star Trek began in the 1960s. She claimed the relationship ended when she found out he was also romantically involved with her acquaintance, Majel Hudec, whom he went on to marry and cast as a nurse on the show.

Nichelle also wrote about the historic interracial kiss she was involved in. It was between her and her co-star William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, and was considered the first interracial kiss on television.

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