Rock Hudson dies of AIDS - HISTORY
Year
1985

Rock Hudson dies of AIDS

On this day in 1985, Rock Hudson, a quintessential tall, dark and handsome Hollywood leading man during the 1950s and 1960s who made more than 60 movies during his career, dies at the age of 59 from acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in Beverly Hills, California. Earlier that same year, Hudson announced through a press release that he was suffering from the disease, becoming the first major celebrity to go public with such a diagnosis. The first cases of AIDS, a condition caused by a virus that attacks and destroys the human immune system, were reported in homosexual men in the United States in the early 1980s. At the time of Hudson’s death, AIDS was not fully understood by the medical community and was stigmatized by the general public as a condition affecting only gay men, intravenous drug users and people who received contaminated blood transfusions.

Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr., on November 17, 1925, in Winnetka, Illinois. He rose to fame in the 1950s, starring in such films as Giant (1956), for which he received an Academy Award nomination,and A Farewell to Arms (1957). Hudson’s good looks and charm were on full display in 1959’s Pillow Talk and several other romantic comedies he made with Doris Day in the early 1960s. In the 1970s, Hudson co-starred in the popular TV series McMillan and Wife. Early in the next decade, he began experiencing health problems and underwent heart bypass surgery. His final TV role was a recurring part on Dynasty from 1984 to 1985.

In July 1985, Hudson was hospitalized while in Paris. Some media reports indicated that he was suffering from liver cancer. However, on July 25, Hudson issued a press release stating he had AIDS and was in France for treatment. Hudson, who had a three-year marriage during the 1950s to a woman who had been his agent’s secretary, never spoke publicly about his sexuality.

Hudson’s death was credited with bringing attention to an epidemic that would go on to kill millions of men, women and children of all backgrounds from around the world. Hudson’s friend and former Giant co-star Elizabeth Taylor became an AIDS activist and rallied the Hollywood community to raise millions for research. In 1993, Tom Hanks received a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in the director Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia, the first major Hollywood movie to focus on AIDS.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Warsaw Uprising ends

The Warsaw Uprising ends with the surrender of the surviving Polish rebels to German forces.Two months earlier, the approach of the Red Army to Warsaw prompted Polish resistance forces to launch a rebellion against the Nazi occupation. The rebels, who supported the democratic ...read more

Thurgood Marshall sworn in

Chief Justice Earl Warren swears in Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1940s and ’50s, Marshall was the architect and executor of the legal ...read more

Darwin returns to England

The British naturalist Charles Darwin returns to Falmouth, England, aboard the HMS Beagle, ending a five-year surveying expedition of the southern Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Visiting such diverse places as Brazil, the Galapagos Islands, and New Zealand, Darwin acquired an ...read more

British spy executed in Arnold affair

During the American War for Independence, British Major John AndrÉ is hanged as a spy by U.S. military forces in Tappan, New York.Ten days before, AndrÉ had been apprehended by three highwaymen sympathetic to the Patriot cause, and they turned him over to U.S. authorities after ...read more

Hollywood icon Rock Hudson dies of AIDS

On this day in 1985, actor Rock Hudson, 59, becomes the first major U.S. celebrity to die of complications from AIDS. Hudson’s death raised public awareness of the epidemic, which until that time had been ignored by many in the mainstream as a “gay plague.”Hudson, born Leroy ...read more

Operation Typhoon is launched

On this day in 1941, the Germans begin their surge to Moscow, led by the 1st Army Group and Gen. Fedor von Bock. Russian peasants in the path of Hitler’s army employ a “scorched-earth” policy.Hitler’s forces had invaded the Soviet Union in June, and early on it had become one ...read more

Gibson strikes out 17 in World Series

On October 2, 1968, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson strikes out 17 Detroit Tigers in the first game of the World Series, breaking Sandy Koufax’s record for the most strikeouts in a Series game. Though the Cards ended up losing the Series in seven games, Gibson pitched ...read more

Woodrow Wilson suffers a stroke

On this day in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson, who had just cut short a tour of the country to promote the formation of the League of Nations, suffers a stroke.The tour’s intense schedule–8,000 miles in 22 days–cost Wilson his health. He suffered constant headaches during the ...read more

Wallace Stevens is born

On this day in 1879, poet Wallace Stevens is born in Reading, Pennsylvania.Stevens followed the footsteps of his father, a Reading lawyer and teacher who wrote poetry on the side. Stevens attended Harvard but left after three years. He knew he wanted to devote his life to ...read more

Hurricane devastates Haiti

On this day in 1963, Hurricane Flora crashes into Haiti, killing thousands of people. This huge storm, which also killed large numbers of people in Cuba and wreaked havoc elsewhere in the Caribbean, was one of the most deadly hurricanes in history.On September 30, Flora reached ...read more

Gunman kills five students at Amish school

Charles Roberts enters the West Nickel Mines Amish School in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, where he fatally shoots five female students and wounds five more before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide.Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old milk truck driver from a ...read more

Battle of Saltville

On this day in 1864,a Union cavalry column strikes Saltville in southwestern Virginia, but is defeated by a Rebel force patched together from several reserve units. The Confederacy’s main source of salt, used as a preservative for army rations, was secured as the war entered its ...read more