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Louis Gossett Jr., Oscar-winning actor, dies at 87

Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, died at age 87. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, died at age 87. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

March 29 (UPI) -- Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. has died.

Gossett died early Friday morning in Santa Monica, Calif., his cousin Neal L. Gossett confirmed to The New York Times. Gossett was 87.

Gossett's cause of death was not immediately known, his cousin told the Washington Post. Prior to his death, Gossett battled prostate cancer and respiratory illness caused by toxic mold in his former home.

Gossett was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in May 1936. He started acting in theater in high school and made his Broadway debut in the play Take a Giant Step in 1953 while he was still a student.

The actor transitioned to film and television in the 1970s and played one of his best-known roles, Sgt. Emil Foley, in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the role, becoming the first Black man to win in the category.

Louis Gossett Jr. attends the NAACP Image Awards in 2014. File Photo by Ken Matsui/UPI
Louis Gossett Jr. attends the NAACP Image Awards in 2014. File Photo by Ken Matsui/UPI

Other notable roles include Fiddler in the ABC miniseries adaptation of Roots, which earned him an Emmy Award, and his Golden Globe-winning performance as Sidney Williams in the HBO film The Josephine Baker Story.

His more recent credits include Will Reeves in the HBO series Watchmen and Ol' Mister in the 2023 adaptation of The Color Purple.

Louis Gossett Jr. attends the NAACP Image Awards in 2009. File Photo by Phil McCarten/UPI
Louis Gossett Jr. attends the NAACP Image Awards in 2009. File Photo by Phil McCarten/UPI

Gossett was married three times and is survived by two sons.