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President Biden released a statement late Sunday night on the passing of actress Nichelle Nichols.
Nichols died Sunday at the age of 89. She was known for playing Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on all three seasons of the original “Star Trek” show, which ran from 1966-1969. She also starred in the six “Star Trek” films from 1979-1991.
“In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women,” President Biden said in the statement.
He said she was from a “working-class family from Illinois” and that she honed her skills as an actor and singer in Chicago before she toured the country with Duke Ellington and gave “life to the words of James Baldwin.”
“During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she shattered stereotypes to become the first Black woman to act in a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek,” Biden said. “With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.”
Biden continued: “Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society.”
Nichols’ son Kyle shared the news of her death on Facebook writing, “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years. Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. 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.”
He added: “Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all. I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.”
He signed off with the signature “Star Trek” send off, “Live Long and Prosper.”
Memorial flowers will be placed on her Hollywood Walk of Fame star on Monday, August 1, at 1 p.m. The star was dedicated to Nichols on Jan. 9, 1992.
Nichols had additional health related issues in recent years, and suffered a minor stroke in 2015. She was also reportedly suffering from dementia and involved in a guardianship battle.
She earned accolades for breaking stereotypes for black actresses, with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. personally encouraging her to stay with the TV series when she expressed doubts about continuing working on the program. She met him at a civil rights gathering in 1967, at a point when she had decided not to return for the show’s second season.
He said, ‘You cannot do that,'” Nichols recalled. “You’ve changed the face of television forever, and therefore, you’ve changed the minds of people,” she said the civil rights leader told her during a meeting.
During the third season of “Star Trek,” Nichols and another series star, William Shatner, who played Capt. James Kirk, made TV history when they shared an interracial kiss.
Fox News’ Tracy Wright and Larry Fink contributed to this report.