Beloved Actor Louis Gossett Jr. Passes Away at 87: Remembering His Iconic Roles in ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ and ‘Roots’

In the 1960s, he also performed as a folk singer in Greenwich Village coffeehouses. He and Richie Havens co-wrote the anti-war song “Handsome Johnny,” which Havens recorded in 1966 and later sang at Woodstock.

Among his dozens of feature films are “The Landlord” (1970), in which he played a man on the verge of madness; “Travels with my aunt” (1972); and “The Deep” (1977), as a Bahamian drug dealer. His later films included “Diggstown” (1992), in which he played a boxer, and the film version of Sam Shepard’s “Curse of the Starving Class” (1994), in which he played the owner of a bar.

Gossett made more than 100 television appearances, from light-hearted comedies like “The Partridge Family” to dramas like “Madam Secretary.” He played the title role, a Columbia anthropology professor who investigates crimes, in the short-lived 1989 series “Gideon Oliver.”

He also appeared in numerous television films, including “The Lazarus Syndrome” (1978), about a cardiologist; “A Gathering of Old Men” (1987), about a black man who kills in self-defense; “Strange Justice” (1999), about Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation process (he played presidential adviser Vernon Jordan); and “Lackawanna Blues” (2005), based on the work of Rubén Santiago-Hudson. His other television movie roles included the Egyptian leader. Anwar Sadat and baseball star Satchel Paige.

He continued acting until last year, when he was seen in the film version of the Broadway musical “The Color Purple.”

Mr. Gossett's marriage to Hattie Glascoe in 1964 lasted only five months. He and Christina Mangosing married in 1973, had a son, and divorced after two years. His 1987 marriage to Cyndi James Reese ended in divorce in 1992.

Mr. Gossett is survived by his children, Satie and Sharron Gossett, and several grandchildren.

In the Television Academy interview, Gossett urged his fellow actors to help bring about political and social change in a troubling world. “The arts can do it overnight,” he said. “Millions of people are watching.” And he added: “We can get to them faster than anyone else.”

Michael Rosenwald contributed with reports.

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