Today In History: Charlton Heston Dies

Today In History |

April 5, 2008


Today marks the ten-year anniversary of Charlton Heston's death. Heston, born John Charles Cotter, was one of the biggest film stars of his day. He was also a conservative political activist. His later life career is mostly associated with his role as figurehead for the National Rifle Association.

Heston acted in over a hundred films, with a career in entertainment that spanned six decades. The films he is best remembered for are The Ten CommandmentsBen-Hur and Planet of the Apes.

During the sixties, Heston supported Democratic politicians, and was a supporter of the civil rights movement. Later in life, he became a conservative. He was a booster for Ronald Reagan and sat on a conservative political action committee.


Between 1998 and 2003, Heston was the president of the NRA, serving five terms. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003. The diagnosis saw his retirement from public life, giving up acting as well as his position as NRA president.

He passed away on April 5, 2008. He was eighty-four years old at the time. Cause of death was pneumonia. When he passed, his wife Lydia was at his side in their Beverly Hills home. He is survived by Fraser Clarke Heston, son, and Holly Ann Heston, daughter.

Upon news of his death, George W. Bush called him "a man of character and integrity, with a big heart ... He served his country during World War II, marched in the civil rights movement, led a labor union and vigorously defended Americans' Second Amendment rights."

Richard Corliss, a writer for Time, said of the man, "From start to finish, Heston was a grand, ornery anachronism, the sinewy symbol of a time when Hollywood took itself seriously, when heroes came from history books, not comic books. Epics like Ben-Hur or El Cid simply couldn't be made today, in part because popular culture has changed as much as political fashion. But mainly because there's no one remotely like Charlton Heston to infuse the form with his stature, fire, and guts."

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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.