Ground Breaking Actor Louis Gossett Jr. Dead at 87

Louis Gossett Jr., the trailblazing actor who made history as the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, passed away on Thursday evening in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 87. While the cause of death has not been disclosed, Gossett’s nephew confirmed the news of his passing.

Gossett’s career began at the tender age of 16 when he made his Broadway debut in “Take a Giant Step.” In his 2010 memoir, “An Actor and a Gentleman,” Gossett reflected on this early success, stating, “I knew too little to be nervous. In retrospect, I should have been scared to death as I walked onto that stage, but I wasn’t.”

After attending New York University, Gossett’s career continued to flourish. He landed a role in the 1959 Broadway production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” sharing the stage with luminaries such as Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Diana Sands.

However, it was his portrayal of the formidable Marine drill instructor in the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman” that catapulted Gossett to international acclaim. His powerful performance opposite Richard Gere and Debra Winger earned him both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

Reflecting on the significance of this achievement, Gossett wrote in his memoir, “More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a Black actor.”

The Oscar win opened doors for Gossett, allowing him to secure roles in notable films such as “Enemy Mine,” “Sadat,” and “Iron Eagle.” As he told Dave Karger in the 2024 book “50 Oscar Nights,” “The Oscar gave me the ability of being able to choose good parts in movies.”

Throughout his illustrious career, Gossett made numerous guest appearances on popular television shows, including “Bonanza,” “The Rockford Files,” “The Mod Squad,” “McCloud,” and a memorable appearance alongside Richard Pryor on “The Partridge Family.”

Despite his professional success, Gossett faced personal challenges, including battles with substance abuse, toxic mold syndrome, prostate cancer, and a hospitalization for COVID-19 in 2020.

Gossett is survived by his sons, Satie, a producer-director from his second marriage, and Sharron, a chef whom he adopted after seeing him in a TV segment about children in dire situations. His first cousin, Robert Gossett, is also an actor.

The entertainment industry mourns the loss of a pioneering actor whose talent, perseverance, and historic achievements paved the way for future generations of Black performers.