Rue McClanahan of 'Golden Girls' Dead at 76

Rue McClanahan, the television actress best known for her roles on Golden Girls and Maude, died early Thursday morning of a massive stroke, her manager Barbara Lawrence told People. It was McClanahan's second stroke this year: after undergoing bypass surgery, she suffered a minor stroke during recovery, Lawrence said. McClanahan was 76 years old.

McClanahan's character on Golden Girls remains a comedy classic: Blanche was a vivacious Southern coquette, a less-lascivious precursor for characters like Sex and the City's Samantha. The smash-hit '80s sitcom, which still airs frequently in syndication, won McClanahan an Emmy (and four total Emmy nominations for best actress), as well as three Golden Globe nominations. The Oklahoma native's death makes her the third Golden Girl to die in a year: in 2009 both Estelle Getty (who played Sophia) and Bea Arthur (who played Dorothy) passed away. The three are survived by Betty White, who played Rose on the show and is experiencing a career renaissance.