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Legendary Black Actor Louis Gossett Jr. dies at 87

Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win a supporting actor Oscar and an Emmy for his role in the TV series “Roots,” passed away at 87. His nephew confirmed his death in Santa Monica, California. No cause was given.

Gossett saw his early career as a story of unexpected success, starting with acting in his high school play in Brooklyn when he couldn’t play basketball due to an injury. He got into acting at New York University on a scholarship, appearing on various TV shows. He learned acting alongside famous names like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Martin Landau, and Steve McQueen.

In 1959, he gained praise for his role in the Broadway play “A Raisin in the Sun.” He later starred in “Golden Boy” on Broadway.
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Gossett gained fame for his role as Fiddler in the miniseries “Roots” in 1977. He became the third Black actor nominated for an Oscar in the supporting category and won for “An Officer and a Gentleman” in 1983, winning a Golden Globe for the same role.

Appearing in various TV movies, including “The Josephine Baker Story,” for which he won another Golden Globe. He stated winning an Oscar didn’t change that he often played supporting roles.

In 2023, he played a role in the remake of “The Color Purple.” He is survived by his sons Satie and Sharron.

Louis Gossett Jr.

More about Louis Gossett Jr.

Louis Gossett Jr. was born May 27, 1936 in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City, to Hellen, a nurse, and Louis Gossett Sr., a porter. He attended Mark Twain Intermediate School 239 and Abraham Lincoln High School. Gossett contracted polio during his youth.

He began his acting career at 17 in a school production of You Can’t Take It with You due to a sports injury. Encouraged by his high school teacher, he auditioned for a Broadway role and was selected for Take a Giant Step in 1953. After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1954, he chose to attend New York University over an athletic scholarship. Despite being offered a chance to play for the New York Knicks, he opted for a role in A Raisin in the Sun.

Gossett was married three times and had one biological son and one adopted son. His marriages were to Hattie Glascoe (annulled), Christina Mangosing (1973-1975), and Cyndi James-Reese (1987-1992). He adopted a son, Sharron, with James-Reese. Gossett’s cousin is actor Robert Gossett, known for his role on TNT’s The Closer.

In 1966, Gossett claimed he was handcuffed to a tree for three hours by the police in Beverly Hills. On August 9, 1969, he narrowly avoided being present at Sharon Tate’s house during the Manson murders.
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Gossett faced health challenges in the 1990s and early 2000s, including a prognosis of six months to live at one point. In 2001, he discovered toxic mold in his Malibu home contributing to his illness. He announced his prostate cancer diagnosis on February 9, 2010, stating it was caught early, and he expected to recover fully. In December 2020, he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Louis Gossett Jr. died at a rehabilitation center in Santa Monica, California, on March 29, 2024, at 87 years old. No cause of death was provided.