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Lou Gossett Jr Onstage At The Meditation Museum

Louis Gossett Jr., a celebrated actor who became the first Black man to win a Supporting Actor Academy Award, has died. Louis Gossett Jr. was also an Emmy Award winner for his appearance in the Roots miniseries.

The Associated Press reports that Louis Gossett Jr. died early Friday morning (March 29) in Santa Monica, Calif., with the news confirmed by the actor’s first cousin, Neal L. Gossett.

Gossett was born on May 27, 1936, in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn in New York City. At the age of 16, a teacher encouraged Gossett to try out for an acting part on Broadway and he won the part. Gossett starred in, Take A Giant Step, although he had no formal training.

Acting became Gossett’s passion despite having athletic skills as a basketball player and he was offered a scholarship at New York University. Instead, Gossett turned his attention to theater and never looked back.

According to his cousin, Gossett was more than his riches and fame; he used his position to address racism and was aligned with the likes of Nelson Mandela and others.

“Never mind the awards, never mind the glitz and glamor, the Rolls-Royces and the big houses in Malibu. It’s about the humanity of the people that he stood for,” his cousin told the AP.

Gossett won the Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1983 for his role in An Officer and A Gentleman. That same year, Gossett also took home the Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe. He also was a star in television, winning his lone Emmy Award in 1977 for his role in Roots. Gossett also won a Best Supporting Actor – television Golden Globe in 1992 for his role in The Josephine Baker Story.

Gossett is survived by his son Satie and daughter Sharron.

Louis Gossett Jr. was 87.

Photo: Howard Ruffner / Getty