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Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win an Oscar for a best supporting actor role, has died at age 87.

The news was confirmed by Gossett’s first cousin, Neal L. Gossett, who told the Associated Press that the late pioneering actor died Friday morning in Santa Monica, Calif. No cause of death was mentioned in the statement.

According to the news outlet, Louis announced he had detected early signs of prostate cancer. In 2020, he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The New York native made his stage debut when he was 16.

Born in Brooklyn, a teenaged Louis starred in the play “Take a Giant Step,” which was selected as one of the ten best Broadway shows of 1953 by The New York Times. He fell in love with acting and spent the 50s performing on stages with The Desk Set and A Raisin in the Sun. Years later, Louis’ career skyrocketed and landed him on the small screen as Fiddler in the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots,” which explored the burdens of slavery. He won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor for his portrayal of Fiddler.

Louis’ stellar performances also earned him award-winning recognition. In 1983, he received his third Black Oscar nomination in the supporting actor category. He won for his incredible acting as the domineering Marine drill instructor in An Officer and a Gentleman, opposite Richard Gere and Debra Winger. He also won a Golden Globe for the same role.

“Magic is magic. But I didn’t work in movies for another year. People weren’t ready for me to win. Television was ready ’cause I worked every week in television. But movies took a minute,” Gossett said during his speech at the 55th Oscars.

Louis would go on to embark on a remarkable career for six decades. The late actor appeared in 200+ roles, according to IMDB, including 12 projects still in development before he died.

More recently, the award-winning actor starred in 2023’s The Color Purple movie musical.

Off-screen, Gossett was a social activist, educator and author enriching the lives of fans and supporters.

In his memoir, An Actor and a Gentleman, Louis wrote candidly about the first 70+ years of his personal and professional life. He delved deeper into his struggles to secure leading roles and fair pay as a Black man in Hollywood, his issues with alcohol and drugs and his activism work against racism and violence.

“I know that, and my heroes and heroines are up there, and I think it’s different from what we think it is and the old days,” the late actor said in his last interview with People magazine. “I think after we make that transition, I think it’s going to be a great time.”

Louis is survived by two adult sons and other family members.

Celebrities far and wide posted heartwarming sentiments about the late actor.

Rest in peace, Louis!

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