Nichelle Nichols (December 28, 1932 – July 30, 2022) was an American actress, singer, and dancer best known for her portrayal of Nyota Uhura in Star Trek and its film sequels. Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura was groundbreaking for African American actresses on American television. From 1977 until 2015, Nichols volunteered her time to promote NASA’s programs and to recruit diverse astronauts, including women and ethnic minorities.
In June 2015, Nichols suffered a mild stroke at her Los Angeles home and was admitted to a Los Angeles–area hospital. A magnetic resonance imaging scan confirmed a small stroke had occurred, and she began inpatient therapy. In early 2018, Nichols was diagnosed with dementia, and subsequently announced her retirement from convention appearances.
Following a legal dispute over the actions of her manager-turned-caretaker Gilbert Bell, her son Kyle Johnson filed for conservatorship in 2018. Before a court granted his petition in January 2019, Nichols’ friend Angelique Fawcette, who had already expressed concern in 2017 over Bell’s control of access to her, pressed for visitation rights, including by opposing Johnson’s petition. That dispute and a 2019 court case by Bell over being evicted from the guesthouse on Nichols’ property were both ongoing as of August 2021.
Nichols died of heart failure in Silver City, New Mexico, on July 30, 2022, at the age of 89.