Nichelle Nichols, Pioneering 'Star Trek' Actor, Dies At 89

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Pioneering “Star Trek” histrion and abstraction exploration advocator Nichelle Nichols died Saturday successful Silver City, New Mexico. She was 89.

Her decease was archetypal announced by her lad Kyle Johnson connected Facebook and aboriginal confirmed to Variety by her endowment manager and concern partner, Gilbert Bell.

“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to earthy causes and passed away,” Johnson wrote connected Nichols’ authoritative Facebook and Instagram pages connected Sunday. “Her airy however, similar the past galaxies present being seen for the archetypal time, volition stay for america and aboriginal generations to enjoy, larn from, and gully inspiration.”

“Hers was a beingness good lived and arsenic specified a exemplary for america all,” helium added. “I, and the remainder of our family, would admit your patience and forbearance arsenic we grieve her nonaccomplishment until we tin retrieve sufficiently to talk further.”

Born Grace Dell Nichols connected Dec. 28, 1932, adjacent Chicago, Nichols was a performer of galore talents.

Her vocation successful amusement began erstwhile she was conscionable 16, arsenic a vocalist with Duke Ellington successful a ballet she created for 1 of his compositions. Although she would spell connected to enactment arsenic a exemplary and dancer, Nichols toured internationally arsenic a vocalist with the large bands headed by Ellington and Lionel Hampton.

Nichols made her movie debut other Sammy Davis Jr. successful the 1959 representation “Porgy and Bess” and began enactment successful tv a fewer years later. She was past formed successful the relation of a lifetime, arsenic Lt. Nyota Uhura, communications serviceman connected the Starship Enterprise, successful the archetypal “Star Trek” TV series.

African-American women had appeared connected tv before, but they’d usually been formed arsenic domestics. When “Star Trek” began successful 1966, Nichols’ important relation successful a prime-time bid marked a TV milestone.

Academy Award-winning histrion and comedian Whoopi Goldberg credits Nichols for inspiring her ain acting career.

“When I was 9 years old, ‘Star Trek’ came on. I looked astatine it and I went screaming done the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, travel quick, travel quick, there’s a achromatic woman connected tv and she ain’t nary maid!’” Goldberg said. “I knew close past and determination I could beryllium thing I wanted to be.”

Nichols remained with “Star Trek” done its full archetypal run, which ended successful 1969, and made appearances successful the succeeding “Star Trek” films.

However, she had primitively planned to resign aft her archetypal twelvemonth connected the show. As Nichols explained successful a 2011 PBS interview, she changed her caput aft a accidental gathering astatine an NAACP event.

“One of the promoters came up and said idiosyncratic wanted to conscionable me. He said he’s my top fan,” Nichols said. “I thought it was immoderate Trekker, immoderate kid. I turned successful my spot and determination was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a large grin connected his face. He said, ‘I americium a Trekker, I americium your biggest fan.’”

King encouraged Nichols to stay with the series.

“He was telling maine wherefore I could not [resign],” she recalled. “He said I had the archetypal nonstereotypical role, I had a relation with honor, dignity and intelligence. He said, ‘You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is wherefore we are marching. We ne'er thought we’d spot this connected TV.’”

In November 1968, Nichols made past erstwhile her “Star Trek” quality kissed Captain James T. Kirk, played by achromatic histrion William Shatner. The country is often cited arsenic the first interracial buss connected American television.

In her agelong vocation arsenic an actor, Nichols appeared successful respective different productions connected the tiny and metallic screens, including the NBC bid “Heroes” and films similar “The Supernaturals” and “The Bitter Earth.” She besides lent her dependable to animated programs similar “Futurama” and “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Nichols arsenic  Lt. Nyota Uhura and William Shatner arsenic  Captain James T. Kirk successful  the Star Trek occurrence  "Journey to Babel," primitively  broadcast connected  Nov. 17, 1967.
Nichols arsenic Lt. Nyota Uhura and William Shatner arsenic Captain James T. Kirk successful the Star Trek occurrence "Journey to Babel," primitively broadcast connected Nov. 17, 1967.

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Nichols whitethorn champion beryllium remembered for her vocation successful entertainment, but she besides leaves down a antithetic legacy: arsenic a pistillate who dedicated decades of her beingness to advocating for abstraction exploration, peculiarly among women and minorities.

A person of each things space, Nichols served connected the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, a nonprofit abstraction advocacy organization, and was reportedly an progressive person successful the now-defunct Space Cadets of America. She besides launched a advisor firm, Women successful Motion, which partnered with NASA to enlistee number and pistillate unit for the abstraction agency. Her recruits included Guion Bluford, the archetypal African-American astronaut, and Sally Ride, the archetypal pistillate American astronaut.

Nichols received NASA’s distinguished Public Service Award for her efforts successful this field. She adjacent had an asteroid named successful her honor.

Nichols was joined and divorced twice, and is survived by her son, Kyle Johnson.

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