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April 2, 2024

By “Huckabee” pop culture guru Pat Reeder (

We are sorry to have to report that renowned actor Louis Gossett Jr. passed away Friday at 87.

While Gossett was most famous for being the first black actor to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as drill sergeant Emil Foley in “An Officer and a Gentleman” in 1982, his award-winning career stretched across seven decades. He made his Broadway debut in 1953 in “Take a Giant Step.” In 1959, he appeared in the original production of “A Raisin in the Sun” and repeated his role in the 1961 movie version.

In 1968, he won an Emmy for the TV miniseries “Roots” and went on to score six more nominations for roles ranging from Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in the 1983 TV movie “Sadat” (his personal favorite) to “Touched by An Angel.” He continued working on Broadway (roles included lawyer Billy Flynn in “Chicago”) and in movies and TV well into his 80s, appearing only last year in the musical remake of “The Color Purple.”

Some things you might not know: As a child, he suffered from polio. His initial ambition was to be an athlete, but he took his first acting class when he was sidelined by a sports injury. Later, he turned down a basketball scholarship to NYU so he could study acting instead.

Also, the role of Sgt. Foley was originally written for a white actor, but director Taylor Hackford visited the Navy Officers Flight Training Center in Pensacola, Fla., and discovered that many of the drill instructors were black. So he started calling in black actors and chose Gossett not only because of his acting resume but because he’d been an Army Ranger. He felt especially convincing as a military man because he was one.

Check out the Variety obituary for more on Louis Gossett Jr.’s remarkable career. RIP.

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