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Star Trek: The Original Series star Nichelle Nichols passed away at age 89 on Sunday, announced by a representative on behalf of Nichols’ family.
Nichols built a legacy on the small screen as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, a prominent character in the Star Trek lore that became a fan favorite and served as a trail-blazing role in the history of television.
She reportedly died of natural causes. Nichols’ son, Kyle Johnson, posted a tribute to his late mother on Sunday.
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away,” Johnson said. “Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.
“Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.”
Born to a family of 10 in Robbins, Illinois, on December 28, 1932, a captivating, young Nichols began her career in entertainment as a singer and played several roles in television before catching her big break in 1966.
Nichols’ resolute character on Star Trek was a pioneering character in TV history as the cunning communications officer for the Starfleet. She played Lt. Uhura during the original show’s three-year run and appeared as the character in six feature films. Many have deemed Nichols’ on-screen kiss with series lead William Shatner (as James T. Kirk) as the first interracial kiss in TV history. Nichols made her final appearance as Uhura in 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
The space series, long been seen as an influence for the 1977 space opera Star Wars, remains a beloved franchise among its solid base of Trekkie fandom.
Between the 1970s and late 1980s, Nichols dedicated herself to a role at NASA that helped recruit and develop aspiring astronauts. In 2001, Nichols had an asteroid named after her: 68410 Nichols.
Rest in Peace