Nichelle Nichols (December 28, 1932 - July 30, 2022) was best known as Lieutenant Uhura,note communications officer on Star Trek: The Original Series.
Famously took William Shatner down several hundred pegs. When Shatner interviewed her for Star Trek Memories, she said, "All right, now I'm going to tell you why I despise you." She then ripped into him for, essentially, being an arrogant cad on set—which he kind of was. He and Nic had since made up, at least partly. In fact, by ripping him apart, she may have begun his redemption.
She almost quit Star Trek, but a fan told her that she was breaking new ground; it was inspiring for America to tune in every week and see the human race being represented, at least in part, by a black woman. That fan? The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and of course you don't argue with him. Besides, King was right... two decades later, a young African-American woman who had grown up watching Nichelle on Star Trek asked for a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation and credited Nichols with being her inspiration to go into acting. This young lady was Whoopi Goldberg, and she played Guinan, the mysterious barkeeper in Ten Forward, for the rest of the series' run.
In an even more awesome CMOA, a young African-American woman applied to NASA, citing Nichols as her inspiration to go into space. This was Dr. Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut, who of course took the opportunity to deliver Uhura's signature line to answer Houston. Life Imitates Art indeed!
She lent her support to several fan productions, along with co-stars Walter Koenig and George Takei. Though oddly enough, she was also the only cast member from the series who never made an appearance later on in the official franchise (aside from archived audio being used in an episode of Star Trek: Prodigy).
Nichols suffered a stroke in 2015, and was sadly diagnosed with dementia sometime in 2018. She eventually passed away from heart failure at the age of 89 on July 30, 2022.
In a truly sad case of irony, Nichols' brother was one of the members of the Heaven's Gate cult, who committed suicide in order to join a flying saucer he believed was behind the Hale-Bopp comet.