Easily, one of Nintendo's most celebrated characters might be the pink puffball known as Kirby. Unfortunately, the character's namesake passed away on Wednesday, October 2nd due to cancer.
John Joseph Kirby, Jr., an attorney who represented Nintendo in a fairly significant lawsuit in 1984, passed away on Wednesday due to a blood cancer known as Myelodysplastic syndrome. He was the source of the name for one of Nintendo's leading mascots and was highly respected among those at the development company.
Before Kirby went on to represent Nintendo in copyright-related lawsuits, he worked at the Department of Justice, according to his obituary in the New York Times. While there, he first acted as a summer intern and "gathered voting records throughout the South that demonstrated evidence of wide-spread discrimination against African-Americans."
Furthermore, Kirby found there were literacy tests manufactured to "exclude African-Americans from voting helped form the basis of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.'
Additionally, Kirby "found himself personally escorting African- American children into segregated schools."
As far as Kirby's work with Nintendo is concerned, Kirby "successfully defended Nintendo during a trademark and copyright infringement suit brought by Universal City Studios concerning Nintendo's video game character 'Donkey Kong.'" The lawsuit, concluding in 1984, entailed Universal suing Nintendo for copyright infringement on the King Kong character and plot with arcade game Donkey Kong's titular character and plot. The case was ultimately decided in favor of Nintendo who argued that King Kong and other characters from the King Kong story are in the public domain.
In addition to the naming of a video game character after him, Kirby also received a sailboat called "Donkey Kong."
It will likely be very upsetting to many to hear of Kirby's death. Kirby contributed significantly to American society and liberty, risking his career to aid the Civil Rights movement. For those wanting to honor him, his obituary in the NY Times notes that "in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Kirby Scholarship Fund at Fordham University, the Merton College Charitable Corporation and The Joseph F. Cullman, Jr. Institute for Patient Experience at Mount Sinai Hospital."