Destination: Sidewalk

When Concrete and People Collide. Sidewalk slips cause nothing more than embarrassment most of the time. But here are some famous people whose lives were changed (or ended) by a sidewalk.

Mary Baker Eddy

MARY BAKER EDDY‘s date with a sidewalk changed her life. As described in the church’s timeline, “A turning point occurred in 1866 when a severe fall on an icy sidewalk left her in bed in critical condition. Friends and a homeopathic physician who was called to treat her saw no hope for her recovery… [Eddy] asked for her Bible and, while reading an account of Jesus’ healing, found herself suddenly well.” Eddy began teaching her Biblical system of healing to others, and in 1879 founded the Church of Christ, Scientist — now widely known as Christian Science.

Katharine Graham

Richard Nixon couldn’t bring her down, but a sidewalk did. KATHARINE GRAHAM was publisher of The Washington Post when the paper tangled with the president during the Watergate scandal that ended with Nixon’s resignation in shame in 1974. Graham died in 2001, after falling at a business conference. Her obituary from the Post’s rival, The New York Times, put it this way: “Mrs. Graham suffered a head injury when she fell on a concrete walkway outside a condominium in Sun Valley, Idaho, and never regained consciousness.”

Shipwreck Kelly

SHIPWRECK KELLY defied death dozens of times while performing his signature stunt: sitting atop flagpoles. (He set a record by spending seven straight weeks on a flagpole in Atlantic City in 1930.) Ironic, then, that his death was announced with the headline, “Shipwreck Kelly Dies on Sidewalk.” He collapsed and died in 1952 while walking on West 51st Street in Manhattan.

Octavia Butler
The world of science fiction literature lost a great one on February 24, 2006, when author OCTAVIA BUTLER died unexpectedly at the age of 58. Butler was a Hugo and Nebula winner, the author of the time-travel novel Kindred and the only science fiction writer to receive a so-called “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. An African-American feminist, Octavia Butler didn’t fit the usual stereotypes of sci-fi, yet she made her mark with novels such as Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, as well as the novella Bloodchild. On a cold February Friday in Lake Forest Park, Washington, Butler fell on the walkway outside her home — possibly after suffering a stroke — struck her head, and died.
Andrew Breitbart

Political firebrand ANDREW BREITBART was only 43 when he died of an apparent heart attack in 2012. Breitbart had just left the Brentwood Restaurant and Lounge and was on his way home when he fell hard to the city sidewalk. One witness said Breitbart “collapsed in front of a Starbucks like a ‘sack of potatoes,'” according to The New York Times. Paramedics were unable to revive Breitbart and he died at the scene.

Roger Ailes
ROGER AILES spent five decades mastering the art of political propaganda as he advised Republican presidential candidates from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump. He put those skills to even wider use as the founding head of Fox News, which he ran from 1996 until multiple sexual harassment charges led to his departure (with a $40 million severance package) in July of 2016. He died less than a year later, on May 17, 2017; the website TMZ reported that Ailes “fell at his Florida home 8 days ago and hit his head. We’re told Ailes fell unconscious and his condition went downhill. Our sources say he was put into an induced coma and died Thursday morning.”
Next: Death By Car

Some people took a more traditional route out of this world: by automobile. Princess Diana and James Dean star in DEATH BY CAR »

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