Nichelle Nichols, who rose to fame as communications officer Lt. Uhura in the original “Star Trek” television series, has died at the age of 89.
Nichols died Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico, his son Kyle Johnson said.
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light, however, like the ancient galaxies now seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn and inspire us,” Johnson wrote on his official Facebook page on Sunday. “His was a life well lived and a model for us all.”
His role in the 1966-69 series as Lt. Uhura earned Nichols a lifelong position of honor among the series’ rabid fans, known as Trekkers and Trekkies. She also won praise for breaking stereotypes that limited black women to roles as maids and included an on-screen interracial kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time.
He often recalled how Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. he was a fan of the series and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the series.
Like other members of the original cast, Nichols also appeared in six big screen spin-offs beginning in 1979 with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and frequented “Star Trek” fan conventions. She also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping to bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.
Most recently, she had a recurring role on TV’s “Heroes,” playing the great-aunt of a boy with mystical powers.