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Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win a supporting actor Oscar, dies at the age of 87


Pioneering actor Louis Gossett Jr., renowned as the first Black man to claim both an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “An Officer and a Gentleman”, and an Emmy for his iconic portrayal in the groundbreaking miniseries “Roots,” has passed away at the age of 87. Family members released a statement confirming his passing on Friday morning in Santa Monica, California, with no disclosed cause of death.

Gossett’s illustrious career spanned stage and screen, with notable performances including his breakout role as Fiddler in “Roots,” which shed light on the horrors of slavery, and his memorable portrayal of a tough Marine drill instructor in “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Beyond his achievements in acting, Gossett was an advocate for eradicating racism, founding the Eracism Foundation to promote a world free of prejudice.

While he was sidelined from this high school basketball team with an injury, Gossett earned his first acting credit in his Brooklyn high school’s production of “You Can’t Take It with You.” His English teacher urged him to go into Manhattan to try out for “Take a Giant Step.” Gossett got the part and made his Broadway debut in 1953 at age 16. He later attended New York University on a basketball and drama scholarship. He soon found himself acting and singing on TV shows hosted by David Susskind, Ed Sullivan, Red Buttons, Merv Griffin, Jack Paar and Steve Allen. 

Remembered fondly by his family as a man who shared moments with Nelson Mandela, possessed a knack for humor, and confronted racism with grace and wit, Gossett left a profound legacy beyond his accolades and fame. He often reflected on his journey in the entertainment industry, viewing it as a reverse Cinderella story, marked by early success that propelled him forward to triumphs. 

His contributions extended beyond his professional endeavors, as Gossett embraced fatherhood with devotion. Survived by his sons Satie, a producer-director, and Sharron, whom he lovingly adopted after witnessing the 7-year-old on a TV segment highlighting children in dire circumstances.

Gossett leaves behind a lasting legacy of talent, resilience, and compassion.


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