Death – These notable figures from Dallas passed away in 2021

Death – Obituary


With 2021 coming to a close, it’s time to look back at some of the dearly departed we lost in Dallas this year. This year’s list includes many musicians, media personalities, and well known figures from the restaurant industry.


Here’s the 2021 list of notable deaths, in chronological order:

Erik Swanson, musician and king of the Western Swing genre in Dallas, died on February 16. He was 57. Swanson was in a number of bands, including Cowboys & Indians, where he served as singer and dynamic frontman, always wearing a cowboy hat, always with a gregarious charm.

James F. “Jim” Rogers, an advocate for the city of Dallas and candidate for the city council who contributed countless hours to local organizations, died on February 15, after battling cancer.  He was 73.

Russ Martin, a Dallas radio personality for more than 30 years, was found dead at his home in Frisco on February 27; he was 60. He was a brash host with shows on KEGL 97.1 “The Eagle” and KLLI Live 105.3.

Barbara Sivils, a server at Mama’s Daughter’s Diner and colorful local legend, died on March 24. She was 84. With her definitive eyeliner, sequinned tops, and blingy jewelry, she became the restaurant’s main character, a mini-celebrity with whom regulars posed for photographs, and such an icon that she was frequently mistaken for the “mama” in Mama’s.

Jocelyn White, Dallas media personality and animal lover, died on April 18 after a short illness; she was 68. White had her own successful television show, Designing Texas, as well as a successful radio career that included working for Ron Chapman at KVIL radio and with Kidd Kraddick for the first two years of his Kidd Kraddick Morning Show on KISS FM.

Joseph “Joe” Patrick Tillotson, a Dallas entrepreneur who helped open popular bars such as Barley House and Katy Trail Ice House, passed away on April 22, after battling cancer for several years; he was only 53.

Ron Chapman, a legendary Dallas radio personality, died on April 26; he was 85. He spent 31 years at KVIL-FM, as a morning disc jockey, music director, and program director. He became famous for his sense of humor and outrageous stunts and giveaways such as broadcasting live while skydiving from a plane.

B.J. Thomas, Grammy-winning singer with hits such as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling,” died on May 29 at his home in Arlington, after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. He was 78.

Mark Lee, a concert promoter and key figure in Dallas’ rock music scene, passed away on June 20; he was 74. Lee was co-owner of The Hot Klub, the famous 1980s punk rock club, and also co-founded 462 Inc., a concert promotion company that brought hundreds of major acts to Dallas venues such as Bronco Bowl and Trees.

Dusty Hill, bassist for legendary Texas rock band ZZ Top, Hill died in his sleep at his home in Houston on July 28; he was 72. He and his bandmates recorded nearly 20 albums with two top 10 singles, “Legs” and “Sleeping Bag.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

Harper Caron, who was president of the Dallas-based Uncle Julio’s Tex-Mex chain, died in a downtown Dallas hotel; he was 45.

Nicole Barrett, talk show host, cigar mogul, and former Ms. Black Texas, died on August 10, after suffering an aneurysm; she was 46.

Dotty Griffith, Dallas food writer and journalist who worked for 36 years at The Dallas Morning News, died on September 13 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 71. She authored a dozen cookbooks, primarily with Texas themes such as The Texas Holiday Cookbook.

Michael Nesmith, guitarist, musician, and songwriter died on December 10 of heart failure at his California home; he was 78. Born in Dallas, Nesmith was a member of the ’60s pop band the Monkees.

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What Is An Obituary

In national newspapers an obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a prominent person. Although it tends to focus on positive aspects of the subject’s life this is not always the case. According to Nigel Farndale, the Obituaries Editor of The Times: “Obits should be life affirming rather than gloomy, but they should also be opinionated, leaving the reader with a strong sense of whether the subject lived a good life or bad; whether they were right or wrong in the handling of their public affairs.”

In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.