Louis Gossett Jr.
Louis Gossett Jr. Louis Gossett Jr.'s Instagram

Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to ever win the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor, has died at age 87, The Associated Press reported on Friday.

The news was confirmed to the outlet by his cousin, who didn't specify the cause of death. "Never mind the awards, never mind the glitz and glamor, the Rolls-Royces and the big houses in Malibu. It's about the humanity of the people that he stood for," said Neal L. Gossett, who remembered his relative as a great joke teller and highlighted him meeting Nelson Mandela.

His career in the big leagues started in 1953 at age 16, when he got a part in Broadway play "Take a Giant Step." "I knew too little to be nervous," Gossett wrote in his memoir "An Actor and a Gentleman." "In retrospect, I should have been scared to death as I walked onto that stage, but I wasn't."

He went on to study at New York University on a basketball and drama scholarship, propelling a career that saw him act in major productions of the time. Especially remembered are his roles in Broadway plays "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Golden Boy," here he performed along Sammy Davis Jr.

His first foray into film took place in 1961 when he took part in the film version of "A Raisin in the Sun." His experience was not ideal, as he had to stay in a cockroach-infested motel, one of the few places that hosted Black people at the time.

After experiencing different episodes of racism throughout his life, Gossett founded the Eracism Foundation to fight against it.

Gossett made history after winning the major Oscar in 1983 for the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman," where he played a Marine drill instructor. He also won a Golden Globe for that role and an Emmy for his role in TV miniseries "Roots."

"More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a Black actor," he wrote in his memoir. About the statue, he said he was 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."

His last big role was in 2023, when he played a patriarch in the remake of "The Color Purple," a performance for which he was nominated to the Screen Actors Guild Awards. He is survived by two sons.

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