Louis Gosset Jr., died on March 29, 2024, at 87. (Courtesy photo)

Louis Gossett Jr., the groundbreaking actor whose career spanned over five decades and who became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his memorable role in “” (1982) has died.

Gossett, who was born on May 27, 1936, in Brooklyn, N.Y., was 87. Recognized early on for his resilience and nearly unmatched determination, Gossett arrived in Los Angeles in 1967 after a stint on Broadway.

He sometimes spoke of being pulled over by law enforcement en route to Beverly Hills, once being handcuffed to a tree, which he remembered as a jarring introduction to the racial tensions of Hollywood. 

In his memoir Gossett recounted the ordeal, noting the challenges faced by Black artists in the industry.

Despite the hurdles, Gossett’s talent shone brightly, earning him acclaim in groundbreaking productions such as “” (1959 Broadway, 1961 film) alongside Sidney Poitier. His Emmy-winning portrayal of Fiddler in “” (1977) solidified his status as a trailblazer, navigating a landscape fraught with racial prejudice.

Gossett’s Journey Into the Limelight 

According to the, which interviewed him in 2005, Gossett’s journey into the limelight began during his formative years at PS-135 and Mark Twain Junior High School, where he demonstrated early leadership as the student body president. 

His passion for the arts blossomed when he starred in a “You Can’t Take It With You” production at Abraham Lincoln High School, catching the attention of talent scouts who propelled him onto Broadway’s stage in “Take A Giant Step.” His stellar performance earned him the prestigious Donaldson Award for Best Newcomer to Theatre in 1952.

Though initially drawn to sports, Gossett’s towering 6’4” frame and athletic prowess led him to receive a basketball scholarship at . Despite being drafted by the New York Knicks in 1958, Gossett pursued his love for acting, honing his craft at under the tutelage of luminaries like John Stix and Peggy Fury.

By the late 1950’s, Gossett’s talent caught the eye of Broadway directors, leading to roles in acclaimed productions such as “Raisin in the Sun” (1959) and “,” alongside legends like James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Roscoe Lee Brown, and Maya Angelou. 

Transitioning seamlessly to television, Gossett graced small screens with appearances in notable shows like and .

Gossett’s silver screen breakthrough came with his role in “,” (1970) paving the way for a prolific filmography that spanned over 50 movies and hundreds of television shows. From “” (1971) to “,” (2005) Gossett captivated audiences with his commanding presence and versatile performances.

However, his portrayal of earned Gossett critical acclaim, including an Emmy Award. 

The HistoryMakers noted that his golden touch extended to the big screen, where his role as Sergeant Emil Foley in “An Officer and a Gentleman” earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, making him a trailblazer in Hollywood history.

Beyond the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, Gossett was deeply committed to community activism. 

In 1964, he co-founded a theater group for troubled youth alongside and , setting the stage for his lifelong dedication to mentoring and inspiring the next generation. Gossett’s tireless advocacy for racial equality culminated in the establishment of , a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating racism both domestically and abroad.

Throughout his illustrious career, Gossett remained a beacon of strength and resilience, using his platform to uplift marginalized voices and champion social change. 

Gossett is survived by his children, Satie and Sharron. 

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The ϰſ Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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