Nickel Nichols, who starred as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek, dies at 89

Nickel Nichols, who rose to fame as communications officer Lieutenant Uhura in the original Star Trek television series, has died at the age of 89.

His son Kyle Johnson said he died on Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico.

Johnson wrote on his official Facebook page on Sunday: “Last night, my mother, Nickel Nichols, died of natural causes and passed away.


KKDKEM Nickel Nichols Uhura Star Trek

“Their light however, like the ancient galaxies now being observed for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and inspire.

“His life was well lived and as such a model for all of us.”

His role as Lieutenant Uhura in the 1966–69 series earned Nichols a lifelong status of respect with fans of the series, known as the Trekkers and Trekkies.

It also earned its praise for breaking stereotypes that restricted black women to acting roles as servants and included an inter-racial on-screen kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time. was.

She often recalled how the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stick with the series.

Like the other original cast members, Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spinoffs, beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 and at Star Trek fan conventions.

She also served as a NASA recruiter for several years, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.

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More recently, she had a recurring role in Heroes of Television, playing the great-grandmother of a young boy with mysterious powers.

George Takei wrote on Twitter, “I have to say more about the trailblazing, incomparable Nickel Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lieutenant Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed away today at the age of 89.”


Nickel Nichols as Lieutenant Natoya Uhura (Damien Dovergens/AP)

“For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes are shining like the stars in the midst of which you are now resting, my dear friend.”

The original Star Trek premiered on September 8, 1966. Its multicultural, multiracial cast was producer Gene Roddenberry’s message to audiences that in the distant future – the 23rd century – human diversity would be more fully accepted.

“I think a lot of people took it to heart — that what was being said on TV at the time was a reason to celebrate,” Nichols said at the 1992 Star Trek exhibition.

During the show’s third season, Nichols’ character and Shatner’s captain James Kirk shared what was described as the first interracial kiss to be aired on an American television series.

In the episode, his characters, Plato’s stepchildren, who had always maintained a platonic relationship, were forced to kiss by aliens who were controlling their actions.


2JD96F5 Nimoy, Takei, Koenig, Duhan, Nichols, Sait, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, 1989,

Kiss “suggested that there was a future where these issues weren’t such a big deal”, Eric Degans, a television critic for National Public Radio, told the Associated Press in 2018.

“The characters themselves weren’t crazy because a black woman was kissing a white man — in this utopian-like future, we solved this issue. We’re beyond that. It was an amazing message to send.”

Born Grace Dale Nichols in Robbins, Illinois, Nichols hated being called Gracie, which everyone insisted on, she said in a 2010 interview.

When she was a teenager her mother told her that she wanted to name her Michelle, but she thought it should be an alliteration like Marilyn Monroe, whom Nichols loved. So get out.

Nichols first worked professionally as a singer and dancer in Chicago at the age of 14, moved to New York nightclubs and worked briefly with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands, and in 1959, Porgy and Bess. before moving to Hollywood for his first film. Several small film and TV roles propelled him to Star Trek stardom.

Nichols was known to be unafraid to stand in front of Shatner on set when others complained that he was stealing scenes and camera time.