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Louis Gossett Jr., Trailblazing Actor and Oscar Winner, Passes Away at 87

Louis Gossett Jr., Trailblazing Actor and Oscar Winner, Passes Away at 87
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Santa Monica, CA — Louis Gossett Jr., the iconic actor celebrated for his groundbreaking roles in film and television, has passed away at the age of 87.

His legacy as the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor will forever resonate in the entertainment industry.

Gossett's journey began on the Broadway stage, where he captivated audiences with his talent and presence.

His portrayal of Fiddler in the 1977 miniseries "Roots" left an indelible mark, depicting the atrocities of slavery and earning him an Emmy award.

But it was his role as Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982) that solidified his place in cinematic history.

The character, originally written as a white man, became a powerful symbol of excellence and resilience.Gossett's Oscar win shattered barriers.

He was the second Black man to receive an Academy Award for acting, following Sidney Poitier's win in 1964.

His performance as the no-nonsense drill instructor resonated deeply, transcending stereotypes and showcasing his genuine decency and unexpected warmth.

Gossett Jr fought hard against racism,

“Though I understood that I had no choice but to put up with this abuse, it was a terrible way to be treated, a humiliating way to feel,” Gossett wrote in his memoir. 

“I realized this was happening because I was Black and had been showing off with a fancy car — which, in their view, I had no right to be driving.”

The Oscar winning actor recalled one day after dinner at the hotel, he went for a walk and was stopped a block away by a police officer, who told him he broke a law prohibiting walking around residential Beverly Hills after 9 p.m. Two other officers arrived and Gossett said he was chained to a tree and handcuffed for three hours.

He was eventually freed when the original police car returned.

"Now I had come face-to-face with racism, and it was an ugly sight," he wrote.

"But it was not going to destroy me."In the late 1990s, Gossett said he was pulled over by police on the Pacific Coast Highway while driving his restored 1986 Rolls Royce Corniche II.

The officer told him he looked like someone they were searching for, but the officer recognized Gossett and left.

He founded the Eracism Foundation to help create a world where racism doesn't exist.He also recalled when he made a series of guest appearances on such shows as "Bonanza,"

"The Rockford Files," "The Mod Squad," "McCloud" and a memorable turn with Richard Pryor on "The Partridge Family."

In August 1969, Gossett had been partying with members of the Mamas and the Papas when they were invited to actor late Sharon Tate's house.

He headed home to shower and change clothes during the party.

As he was getting ready to leave his house, Gossett saw a news on TV about Tate's murder. She and others were killed by Charles Manson's associates that night.

"There had to be a reason for my escaping this bullet," he wrote.

Speaking on his Oscar win, he said:

"The Oscar gave me the ability of being able to choose good parts in movies like 'Enemy Mine,' 'Sadat' and 'Iron Eagle,'"

Gossett said in Dave Karger's 2024 book "50 Oscar Nights.

"He said his statue was in storage."I'm going to donate it to a library so I don't have to keep an eye on it," he said in the book.

"I need to be free of it."

Colleagues and fans alike are paying tribute to Gossett's remarkable career. Colman Domingo, his co-star in "The Color Purple," described him as "kind beyond measure" and "regal."

Fantasia Barrino acknowledged his impact on Black actors and actresses, emphasizing that his legacy will endure.

Louis Gossett Jr. leaves behind a legacy of excellence, resilience, and inspiration. His contributions to the arts will continue to shape generations to come.

As we mourn his passing, we celebrate the monumental life he lived and the doors he opened for others.

“There’s a love-hate relationship between the sergeant and his trainees,” Roger Ebert wrote in his review of "An Officer and a Gentleman." 

“Lou Gossett Jr. does such a fine job of fine-tuning the line between his professional standards and his personal emotions that the performance deserves its Academy Award.”

Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time. Louis Gossett Jr.'s impact on the entertainment industry and his commitment to creating a more just world will forever be remembered.