Yesterday, Richard Pryor died of a heart attack, and former senator Eugene McCarthy succumbed in his sleep. I was a toddler during the 1968 presidential election (the first election that I actually recall was the 1972 one, when I was seven), so McCarthy's passing didn't really have as much of an impact on me as Pryor's.
In the late '70's and early '80's, Pryor dominated cable television with his comedies "Silver Streak" and "Stir Crazy," and particularly his "Richard Pryor -- Live in Concert" film. The latter had me rolling on the floor with laughter, tears in my eyes, as Pryor narrated and acted out the ballet of Muhammed Ali boxing, or how a guy being mugged will suddenly turn into "Mah-cho Man!" and then usually transform into "Dead Motherf*****er." Then there was the wonderful Saturday Night Live skit (which I had on a comedy record) in which Chevy Chase interviewed Pryor's character for a job, and played a "word association" game that turned into a rapidly escalating battle of racial epithets -- one Pryor decisively won when Chase uttered the "N" bomb, and Pryor responded with, "Deeead Honkey." And of course, Pryor helped shaped the comedic world of the '70's with the script to "Blazing Saddles" that he co-wrote with Mel Brooks.
Pryor's career melted down in the late '80's, with his freebasing "accident" (later revealed as a suicide attempt) and his health problems. But he definitely cemented his place in comedy history.