Nichols died of natural causes, he said.
Nichols portrayed communications officer Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the “Star Trek” TV series and several of its film branches.
When “Star Trek” debuted in 1966, Nichols was a television rarity: a black woman in a notable role in a prime-time television series. The first were African-American women on TV, but they often played domestic workers and had minor roles; Nichols’ Uhura was an integral part of the multicultural “Star Trek” crew.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called it “the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a black woman in television history”.
After three seasons of “Trek” running, Nichols devoted himself to the space program. She helped NASA make the agency more diverse, recruiting astronauts Sally Ride, Judith Resnick and Gionn Bluford.
George Takei, who portrayed Hikaru Sulu, helm of the USS Enterprise, posted a touching tribute to his co-star.
“Long live and prosper together,” he saluted the iconic Vulcan, alongside a photo of the pair.
Nichols was born Grace Dale Nichols near Chicago in 1932. (Unhappy with Grace, he took the name Nickel when he was a teenager.) His grandfather was a White Southerner who married a black woman, causing a rift in their family.
She moved to Los Angeles in the early 60s and landed a role in the Gene Roddenberry series, “The Lieutenant.” Several “Star Trek” veterans also starred on the show, including Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, and Majel Barrett.
When Roddenberry was making “Trek,” he remembered Nichols. She was in Europe when she got the call.
Uhura was not in the original script, and Nicholas was responsible for the name. She was reading a book called “Uhuru” – “Freedom” in Swahili – and suggested she name her character. Roddenberry thought it was too harsh.
“I said, ‘Well, why don’t you make a variation of that, soften the ending with ‘a,’ and it’ll be Uhura?’ “He remembered. “They said, ‘That’s it, that’s your name! You named it, it’s yours.’ ,
Nichols is survived by his son Kyle Johnson.