O.J. Simpson’s Family Announces He Has Died of Cancer at Age 76 (2024)

1947-2024

Jump to:

  • Who Was O.J. Simpson?
  • Quick Facts
  • Early Life
  • Football Career and Stats
  • Acting and TV Commentary
  • Wives and Kids
  • Murder Case and Trial
  • Other Civil and Criminal Convictions
  • Prison Sentence and Release
  • Later Years
  • Cancer Diagnosis and Death
  • O.J. Simpson in Books and TV
  • Net Worth
  • Quotes

Who Was O.J. Simpson?

O.J. Simpson was a former NFL football player and convicted armed robber and kidnapper known for being acquitted of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Prior to his high-profile legal entanglements, Simpson was a college football superstar at USC and won the Heisman Trophy in 1968. He later enjoyed a record-setting career in the NFL and tremendous popularity among his fans. Amid a moderately successful post-playing career as an actor and broadcaster, Simpson was charged with the June 1994 murders of his ex-wife and Goldman. He was acquitted in a widely publicized criminal trial, though he was found liable for their deaths in civil court. In 2008, Simpson was found guilty of kidnapping and armed robbery after accosting two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room. He served nearly nine years in prison before being released on parole in October 2017. Simpson died of complications from cancer on April 10, 2024, at age 76.

Quick Facts

FULL NAME: Orenthal James Simpson
BORN: July 9, 1947
DIED: April 10, 2024
BIRTHPLACE: San Francisco, California
SPOUSES: Marguerite Whitley (1967-1979) and Nicole Brown Simpson (1985-1992)
CHILDREN: Arnelle, Jason, Aaren, Justin, and Sydney
ASTROLOGICAL SIGN: Cancer

Early Life

Orenthal James Simpson, better known as O.J. Simpson, was born on July 9, 1947, in San Francisco. His aunt gave him the name Orenthal, supposedly the name of a French actor she liked.

At age 2, Simpson contracted rickets, leaving him pigeon-toed and bow-legged. He had to wear a pair of shoes connected by an iron bar for a few hours almost every day until he was 5 years old.

Simpson’s parents separated in 1952. Along with a brother and two sisters, he was raised by his mother in the rugged, largely Black Potrero Hill district of San Francisco. At age 13, he joined a gang called the Persian Warriors. One fight landed him at the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center for nearly a week in 1962.

Simpson displayed immense promise on the gridiron for Galileo High School, though his poor grades initially impeded his chances of joining a major college football program. After overwhelming the competition at the City College of San Francisco, he was admitted to the University of Southern California as a halfback.

Football Career and Stats

O.J. Simpson’s Family Announces He Has Died of Cancer at Age 76 (1)

O.J. Simpson, left, played for the Buffalo Bills for nine seasons.

Simpson first gained fame as a two-time All-American halfback for the USC Trojans, setting NCAA records and winning the Heisman Trophy in 1968.

The next year, Simpson joined the Buffalo Bills pro team but didn’t excel until the offense was tailored to showcase his running. Nicknamed “The Juice,” Simpson topped 1,000 yards rushing over five consecutive years, 1972 to 1976, and led the NFL in that category four times. In 1973, he became the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season. The running back also established league records (since broken) with his 23 touchdowns in 1975 and 273 rushing yards against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day 1976.

He played for the Bills for one more season before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers. Simpson closed out his football career after playing the 1978 and 1979 seasons with his hometown team.

In 1983 and 1985, respectively, Simpson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Acting and TV Commentary

After retiring from professional football in 1979, Simpson moved on to a profitable career as a sportscaster and an actor. He had dabbled in acting while still an active athlete, notably playing a man framed for murder by the police in the 1974 movie The Klansman.

Simpson later appeared in The Naked Gun (1988) and its sequels, playing a dim-witted assistant detective alongside actors Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley. The former athlete regularly appeared in TV commercials for the Hertz rental-car company, where he was seen leaping over luggage and other obstacles in an effort to catch a flight. Additionally, he worked as a commentator for Monday Night Football and the NFL on NBC.

Wives and Kids

Simpson was married twice and had five kids, four of whom are living.

Simpson married Marguerite L. Whitley on June 24, 1967. They had three children together: Arnelle, Jason, and Aaren. Their daughter Aaren, who was born in 1977, died a month before her second birthday when she drowned in the family’s swimming pool. Simpson and Marguerite divorced in 1979.

While still married to his first wife, Simpson met 18-year-old waiter Nicole Brown. Their nearly 12-year age gap didn’t deter their relationship. After several years of dating and living together, Simpson and Brown married in February 1985. She took the name Nicole Brown Simpson after their nuptials, and the couple had two children together, Sydney and Justin.

Brown Simpson complained about her marriage to friends and family members, telling them that Simpson was physically abusive. Police were also called to their Los Angeles home multiple times. That included after a fight between the two on New Year’s Eve in 1989. Brown Simpson was left with a split lip and bruises, including a black eye, and said her husband had threatened to kill her.

The former football star later pleaded no contest to spousal battery, receiving 120 hours of community service, a $200 fine, and two years of probation. He was also sentenced to donate $500 to a domestic violence shelter for women. Simpson brushed off the incident in an interview with ESPN, noting “We had a fight. We were both guilty. No one was hurt. It was no big deal, and we got on with our life.”

However, their life together didn’t last. Brown Simpson filed for divorce in 1992. The settlement, awarding her more than $430,000 and $10,000 per month in child support, was finalized that October.

Murder Case and Trial

Early on the morning of June 13, 1994, Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death outside of her condominium in Los Angeles’ Brentwood area. Authorities determined they had been murdered the previous night. After questioning the former NFLer, evidence led police to suspect Simpson of the murders. The ensuing police chase and trial sparked nationwide discussions about race, racism, and how law enforcement and the judicial system treat celebrities.

Bronco Chase

O.J. Simpson’s Family Announces He Has Died of Cancer at Age 76 (4)

Al Cowlings drives a white Ford Bronco with O.J. Simpson also in the car during a car chase with police on June 17, 1994.

Simpson was ordered to surrender by 11 a.m. on June 17 but instead vanished. He was tracked down later that day when he made a call from his cell phone on the Santa Ana Freeway. The police pursued, leading to a nationally televised slow-speed chase of a white Ford Bronco belonging to ex-NFL player Al “A.C.” Cowlings, who was at the wheel while Simpson was in the backseat.

Simpson finally surrendered voluntarily the evening of June 17 at his Brentwood mansion. Although he was found to be in possession of a gun, his passport, $9,000 in cash, and a disguise, he insisted that he “wasn’t running.” Ahead of his criminal trial, Simpson pleaded “absolutely, positively, 100 percent not guilty” to the murder charges that July.

Criminal Trial and “Dream Team” of Lawyers

Simpson’s criminal trial for the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, dubbed the “Trial of the Century,” commenced with opening statements on January 24, 1995. The jury was sequestered for nearly nine months, longer than any jury had been to date in California history.

The high-profile murder suspect assembled a legal “dream team” of lawyers that reportedly cost him an estimated $50,000 a day. To cover the exorbitant expense, Simpson reportedly sold some of his football memorabilia. The dream team was headed by Johnnie Cochran along with Robert Kardashian, Robert Shapiro, Barry Scheck, Alan Dershowitz, and F. Lee Bailey.

Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark appeared to have a strong case against Simpson, as a glove matching the one found near the dead bodies surfaced on Simpson’s property and DNA testing connected him to the bloodstains left behind. However, Simpson’s lawyers successfully raised doubts about the handling of the evidence. Cochran famously dismissed the matching gloves in his closing statements, noting, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

O.J. Simpson’s Family Announces He Has Died of Cancer at Age 76 (5)

During his 1995 murder trial, O.J. Simpson tries on gloves similar to the one found at the crime scene.

On October 3, 1995, the jury found Simpson not guilty of either murder. It was one of the most-watched events in television history, with 150 million people tuning in to hear the verdict.

Other Civil and Criminal Convictions

Despite his acquittal, Simpson was hauled back to court for a civil trial related to Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman’s deaths. In February 1997, he was found liable for their wrongful deaths and was ordered to pay their families $33.5 million in damages.

Simpson moved to Florida in 1999, in large part due to a state law that prevented his home from being seized to help cover the civil damages. He auctioned off memorabilia to raise money and harbored hopes of returning to show business that never materialized due to his now-controversial profile.

Not long after his move, the former athlete found himself back in the headlines on account of his infamous temper. He allegedly attacked another driver in a road-rage incident in December 2000 but was acquitted the following October.

O.J. Simpson’s Family Announces He Has Died of Cancer at Age 76 (6)

O.J. Simpson appears at an arraignment hearing in Las Vegas in November 2007.

Then in 2007, Simpson and Clarence “C.J.” Stewart robbed two sports memorabilia dealers at gun point in a Las Vegas hotel room. Simpson was immediately taken into custody and told police that he had just been trying to reclaim his possessions. However, the two men were found guilty, with Simpson’s conviction for 12 counts of armed robbery and kidnapping arriving in October 2008. That December, they were sentenced to up to 33 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after nine years.

Prison Sentence and Release

Simpson spent nearly nine years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping. Well into his sentence, Simpson sought a new trial in May 2013 by claiming that one of his attorneys, Yale Galanter, had given him poor advice during his 2008 trial. “It was my stuff. I followed what I thought was the law,” the former running back testified in a Las Vegas courtroom. “My lawyer told me I couldn’t break into a guy’s room. I didn’t break into anybody’s room. I didn’t try to muscle guys. The guys had my stuff, even though they claimed they didn’t steal it.”

Amid his retrial efforts, Simpson was granted parole on July 31, 2013, for five of 12 the convictions that had landed him in prison. That covered two convictions for kidnapping, two for robbery, and one for burglary with a firearm. The Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners made the decision based on the lack of previous criminal convictions on Simpson’s record. Even so, he was forced to remain behind bars for his other related sentences.

Later that year, Clark County District Judge Linda Marie Bell denied Simpson’s request for a new trial. His legal team filed an appeal in October 2014, but the Nevada Supreme Court panel rejected it the following September, ruling that there was no reason to overturn the lower court’s decision. Simpson continued to serve his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada.

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O.J. Simpson attends his parole hearing on July 20, 2017, from Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center.

On July 20, 2017, 70-year-old Simpson appeared via video conference from Lovelock Correctional Center in front of the Nevada Board of Parole in Carson City to make his case to be set free. At the hearing, which was live-streamed and broadcast on television, Simpson answered questions from the four-person parole board about his crime, saying he knew the memorabilia dealers well and that he owned the property he took from them. He also referred to the men with him as “security guards” and that he hadn’t brandished a gun at anyone. “I’ve basically spent a conflict-free life,” he said. “I was never a guy who got into fights on the street.” Simpson also said: “I’m not a guy who lived a criminal life. I’m a pretty straight shooter.”

When speaking about his jail time, he mentioned that he started a Baptist religious service in prison and that he followed the rules. “I’ve done my time,” he said. “I’ve done it as well and as respectfully as anybody can... I’ve not complained for nine years, all I’ve done is try to be helpful.” Simpson also said that if released he was looking forward to spending more time with his family: “I’ve missed a lot of time, like 36 birthdays with my children.”

His oldest child, Arnelle, also testified for the family in support of Simpson’s release. “My experience with him is that he’s like my best friend and my rock,” she said. “I know that he is remorseful, he is truly remorseful.”

Bruce Fromong, one of Simpson’s robbery victims, also testified on Simpson’s behalf. “It’s time to give him a second chance. He made a mistake.” Simpson’s lawyer said their client had apologized to Alfred Beardsley, the other robbery victim who had died in 2015, and they “made it right.”

The parole board granted Simpson’s parole, and he was released from Lovelock just after midnight on October 1, 2017.

Later Years

After his prison release in October 2017, Simpson lived in the Las Vegas area while on parole. The newly free Simpson was repeatedly approached by businesses eager to strike a deal based on Simpson’s celebrity. “Everyone is talking about reality shows,” his attorney Malcolm LaVergne told Vanity Fair that year. “We get flooded with calls [with people saying] ‘We’ve got a $50 million deal for Simpson.’ Or ‘We’re an agency and we’ve got a business proposal for Simpson.’... He is ignoring them all. He’s a senior citizen, he is enjoying his life, and he’s just breathing, learning to exhale after being in jail for a decade.”

However, Simpson was back in the news for bad behavior not long after his release from prison. In November 2017, he was reportedly kicked out of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas after getting drunk and breaking glasses at the hotel bar. He was said to have cooperated with the security guards who escorted him out.

Simpson later filed a lawsuit against the owner of the hotel, claiming unnamed employees had defamed him by telling celebrity news site TMZ he had been banned from the property. In April 2021, the two sides reached an undisclosed settlement to end the dispute.

Later that year in December 2021, Simpson was granted early release from parole for his robbery conviction—making him “a completely free man,” according to his attorney.

Cancer Diagnosis and Death

Simpson’s health was the subject of much speculation during his final years. In May 2023, Simpson posted a video to social media site Twitter, now X, in which he said he had recently “caught cancer” and “had to do the whole chemo thing.” He didn’t specify the type of cancer.

In February 2024, a Las Vegas television station reported that Simpson was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, and rumors began circulating he was in hospice care. Simpson denied the latter in a video posted just prior to the Super Bowl on February 11. “My health is good,” he said. “I mean, obviously I’m dealing with some issues, but I think I’m just about over it.”

Two months later, though, his family announced Simpson’s death in another social media statement. They shared Simpson died on April 10, 2024, having “succumbed to his battle with cancer.” The 76-year-old was surrounded by his children and grandchildren at the time of his death. His body is being cremated.

In death, Simpson left behind a mountain of debt, largely stemming from the damages he still owed to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Lawyers representing Simpson and the Goldmans estimated the current totals were between $114 million and $200 million today due to accrued interest. The executor of Simpson’s will initially told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he would thwart the Goldmans’ collection efforts and hoped they “get zero, nothing,” before later walking back his statement days later. Simpson’s assets likely won’t cover that amount, the attorney said.

O.J. Simpson in Books and TV

Given his celebrity status and very public legal history, Simpson has been the subject of multiple movie and book projects.

If I Did It

Simpson planned to publish the ghostwritten If I Did It, a hypothetical account of how he would have committed the Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman murders, in late 2006. But after a publishing deal with HarperCollins fell through, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the book’s rights to the Goldman family.

The family added commentary to the work and retitled it If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. The book was published in September 2007.

The Lost Confession

Around the time of If I Did It’s originally planned publication, Simpson taped an accompanying interview with HarperCollins publisher Judith Regan. However, it was shelved due to the victims’ families concerns that Simpson would find a way to profit from its broadcast.

In March 2018, the footage finally aired as part of a two-hour special titled O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession. In the interview, Simpson described a “hypothetical” situation in which he encounters Goldman at his ex-wife’s home and takes a knife from his friend “Charlie” as things turn violent. Simpson also expressed some regret related to his physical abuse of Nicole, saying, “The one thing that hurts me as much as anything in this... besides being considered by some a murderer is being a batterer.”

O.J.: Made in America

In June 2016, ABC debuted O.J.: Made in America, a documentary aired as a five-part miniseries that examined Simpson’s athletic career, murder trial and acquittal, and popularity in American culture. The project won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

The People v. O.J. Simpson

The saga of the 1994 murders and his subsequent criminal trial returned to the spotlight for the 2016 first season of the series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. The series featured actor Cuba Gooding Jr. in the role of the fallen football star.

The People v. O.J. Simpson was critically acclaimed, winning nine Emmy Awards including for Outstanding Limited Series and three of the acting categories for a limited series or TV movie. Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance, and Sterling K. Brown won for their respective portrayals of prosecutor Marcia Clark, defense attorney Jonnie Cochran, and young prosecutor Christopher Darden.

Net Worth

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Simpson’s net worth was estimated to be around $3 million at the time of his death. His primary source of income had been a fully-funded NFL pension, which Sports Illustrated reported in 2017 was expected to pay him as much as $25,000 per month.

Given the civil damages he owed, it’s no surprise Simpson’s wealth dropped over the years. According to court documents filed amid his 1992 divorce, Simpson estimated his net worth to be as much as $10.8 million, or around $18 million today.

Quotes

  • I’m absolutely, 100 percent, not guilty.
  • I’ve been very clear. I won. I didn’t commit the crime.
  • The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that’s the day you start to the top.
Fact Check: We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us!

O.J. Simpson’s Family Announces He Has Died of Cancer at Age 76 (8)

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O.J. Simpson’s Family Announces He Has Died of Cancer at Age 76 (9)

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News and Culture Editor, Biography.com

Tyler Piccotti first joined the Biography.com staff as an Associate News Editor in February 2023, and before that worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University. When he's not writing and researching his next story, you can find him at the nearest amusem*nt park, catching the latest movie, or cheering on his favorite sports teams.

O.J. Simpson’s Family Announces He Has Died of Cancer at Age 76 (2024)
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