Louis Gossett Jr., First Black Man to Win Supporting Actor Oscar, Passes Away at 87

Louis Gossett Jr was the third black Oscar nominee in the supporting actor category.

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Louis Gossett Jr., First Black Oscar Winner, Passes Away at 87
Louis Gossett Jr (Photo: AP)

Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win an Oscar for best supporting actor, for his iconic role in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” passed away at 87 on Friday. The actor’s family confirmed his death in a statement; “It is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning,” the family’s statement expressed. “We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Gossett’s nephew, speaking to The Associated Press, revealed that the actor was in Santa Monica, California, at the time of his passing. The cause of death has not been revealed, although Gossett had previously battled prostate cancer, which he announced in 2010.

Louis Gossett Jr. achieved fame and critical acclaim for his portrayal of the intimidating Marine drill instructor in the movie “An Officer And A Gentleman,” alongside Richard Gere and Debra Winger. Reflecting on his Oscar win, he remarked, “The Oscar gave me the ability of being able to choose good parts in movies like Enemy Mine, Sadat and Iron Eagle,” as noted in Dave Karger’s book “50 Oscar Nights.”

Born on May 27, 1936, in Brooklyn, New York, Gossett started acting in school productions and made his Broadway debut at the age of 16. He gained recognition for his role in the Broadway production of “A Raisin In The Sun” in 1959.

Gossett’s breakthrough on television came with his role as Fiddler in the 1977 miniseries “Roots,” where he depicted the horrors of slavery, a performance that earned him an Emmy Award. He continued to excel in both film and television, winning accolades for his roles in various productions, including “The Josephine Baker Story” and “Roots Revisited.”

Despite his success, Gossett faced challenges, including battles with addiction and health issues. He struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction after his Oscar win and later battled prostate cancer, which was detected early in 2010. In 2020, he was hospitalized after contracting COVID-19.

Throughout his life, Gossett was an advocate for racial equality. He founded the Eracism Foundation to combat racism and promote understanding among people of different backgrounds. Louis Gossett Jr. is survived by his sons Satie, a producer-director from his second marriage to Christina Mangosing, and Sharron, a chef whom he adopted at age seven.

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