Nichelle Nichols' only child and son, Kyle Johnson, became her caregiver during her final years and has since mourned her death. He was a controversial figure who claimed to protect his mother from being exploited in Hollywood.
As Lt. Nyota Uhura, a communications officer in the "Star Trek" series, Nichelle Nichols was well-known for breaking ground in her role. She also got to reprise her role in the follow-up movies.
During the series' 1966 launch, the iconic star gained immense attention for having an essential role in a prime-time television series and for being a Black woman. Other African-American women who appeared on television only starred in small roles or as domestic workers.
Grace Lee Whitney, as Yeoman Janice Rand, and Nichelle Nichols, as Lieutenant Uhura, on the premiere episode of "Star Trek," on September 8, 1966. | Source: Getty Images
The late Martin Luther King Jr. once described Nichols's role as "the first non-stereotypical role" played by a Black woman in television history. The actress also made history as one of the first Black women to share an interracial kiss on US television.
Her character locked lips with William Shatner's James T. Kirk. In 2014, the star told CNN that the scene had such an effect that it altered how "people looked at one another" and also "changed television forever"
After concluding three seasons on "Star Trek," Nichols spent her time in a space program. The actress helped NASA become diverse by assisting in recruiting well-known male astronaut Guion Bluford and famous female astronauts like Judith Resnik, Sally Ride, and more.
Her son and only child, Kyle Johnson, released a statement on July 31, 2022, that his mother had died aged 89. Nichols was married twice before her first husband was Foster Johnson, a tap dancer with whom she tied the knot in 1951.
It was with him that she had her only son before their marriage concluded in divorce. The star's second husband was a songwriter named Duke Mondy, and they married in December 1967 and divorced in March 1972.
NICHELLE WAS MOURNED BY HER ONLY SON
On the day of her death, Kyle took to Nichols' official Instagram page to pay tribute to her with a photo of a bouquet of red and pink roses on her Hollywood Walk of Fame star. He described his late mother as "a great light in the firmament" that no longer shined as it had for years, adding:
"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."
Kyle also revealed that the actress had passed on from natural causes. He noted, "Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all," and shared that he and their family would appreciate people's patience as they grieved until they were well enough to talk further.
The star's son said her funeral services would only be attended by Nichols' closest friends and family members. The family asked for privacy, with Kyle ending the post with "Star Trek's" well-known phrase, "Live Long and Prosper."
According to a family friend, Nichols died from heart failure at a Silver City, New Mexico, hospital on July 30, 2022, while Kyle confirmed the day of his mother's death as the 31st. The last time she publically struggled with her health was in 2015.
At the time, she suffered a stroke while at home in Woodland Hills and also battled dementia. However, legal matters also featured in Nichols' life as the iconic actress got older, with her son allegedly trying to do what was best for her.
HOW NICHELLE'S SON TRIED TO PROTECT HER FOR YEARS
Kyle Johnson and Nichelle Nichols at the Los Angeles Comic Con on December 5, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
Nichols' Woodlands Hills home brought her joy, and it was her pride. She bought it for $12,000 in 1982 and decorated it herself with oversized furniture and a garden where she planted roses before buying the neighboring property in 1994 to use it as a workspace for projects and a guesthouse.
Kyle, her conservator, a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette, and Nichols' former manager Gilbert Bell were all involved in a fight over what happened to the property. The star's son became her conservator after filing a petition in 2018.
Nichelle Nichols at her 85th birthday celebration held at La Piazza/The Grove on December 28, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
He argued that the actress' dementia opened up to possible "exploitation." The following year, Bell filed a lawsuit against Nichols' son, claiming Kyle was trying to have him removed from his former client's guest house.
The former manager had lived in the home since 2010 and alleged that Nichols' son had displayed "aggressive and combative behavior" towards him. Bell claimed he'd helped his former client to restore her finances and career while living close to her.
Angelique Fawcette at a screening of "Unbelievable!!!!!" at the Brenden Theatres inside Palms Casino Resort on August 5, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Source: Getty Images
In 2020, Kyle filed a countersuit against the former manager, claiming Bell had exerted "undue influence" over his mother and controlled her personal affairs and assets. The actress' son alleged Bell had misappropriated Nichols' monies as her memory faded and health deteriorated.
Fawcette got involved in the duo's legal matters by opposing Kyle's conservatorship petition. She, a fellow actress and producer who met the legendary star in 2012, wanted visitation rights to see her friend.
Nichols' friend also wanted her to stay at her Woodland Hills home. Sadly, at age 88, in 2020, Kyle moved his mother to New Mexico, where he lived with his wife live and refused to allow The Times to speak with her directly.
In August 2021, Fawcette confessed to People magazine that Nichols had "been like a mother" figure to her. The producer felt it was painful seeing her actress friend go through the experience of having her beloved home sold, saying:
"When the house was sold, I was very hurt for her. She has no place to go back to anymore. It hurt me because I knew that it would hurt her."
Nichelle Nichols at the Outfest Closing Night Gala on July 21, 2008, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
The legendary star's friend recalled, "She stated that she wanted to remain in her home, yet the court let her son move her out." However, a court allowed Nichols to be moved out by her son, with Bell stating in a separate interview:
"Her home is gone. It's been sold out from under her. She would be horrified if she knew that."
Nichelle Nichols on September 13, 1994, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne. | Source: Getty Images
The former manager added, "She was proud of [that house]. She designed it. She helped build it. She planted the trees on it, adding: "It was a dream come true for her." Bell recalled how they'd go to Nichols' home after returning from conventions.
He shared how the actress would sing lovingly to the house in greeting upon arrival. The Times reported how the property and guest home was sold in August 2021 to Baron Construction & Remodeling Co. for almost $2.2 million.
Nichelle Nichols and Sonequa Martin-Green at the premiere of "Star Trek: Discovery" on September 19, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
Bell had moved out, and in a short email, Kyle revealed that the monies from the sale would be put into his mother's conservatorship account for her continued care. The former manager told the publication Kyle was living in New Mexico, where he worked as Nichols' primary caregiver.
However, Kerry O' Quinn, sci-fi magazine rounder and [Nichelle] Nichols' close and longtime friend, was one of the people who suffered from the star's isolation.
The star's son confirmed he'd moved his mother to New Mexico and that they'd remain there. He noted how the home was more modest and smaller than the Los Angeles one but that it met their needs.
Nichelle Nichols and Kyle Johnson at the Nichols Finale Celebration during the 2021 Los Angeles Comic Con on December 5, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
Speaking to People, the producer revealed that she hadn't seen her friend since Nichols' screaming video went public in 2019. The fellow actress alleged that she was refused visitation rights after she spoke up publicly, condemning the footage.
Nichols' friend said Kyle had always intended on selling his mother's home. Fawcette claimed her friend's son told her the actress shouldn't be in it any longer as he wanted her in a one-bedroom condo, and Bell felt Kyle was in charge, not his mother.
Nichelle Nichols at the Los Angeles Comic Con at Los Angeles Convention Center on December 5, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
The Los Angeles Times reported how it was overall best for people living with dementia to go into a care facility or live with family members. Kyle believed his mother's isolation protected her from being exploited.
However, Kerry O' Quinn, sci-fi magazine rounder and Nichols' close and longtime friend, was one of the people who suffered from the star's isolation. He hadn't seen the actress for over two years.
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