Sidney Poitier celebrated by Denzel, Oprah, Whoopi and more following his death: 'We lost an elegant king today'

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·9 min read

Sidney Poitier, who died Thursday at 94, was truly beloved by the entertainment industry ... and beyond.

For proof, look no further than the countless tributes that poured in within hours of the news.

Academy Award winners, such as Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Whoopi Goldberg and Denzel Washington, wrote about the barriers he'd broken, like in 1964, when he was the first Black man to win the Oscar for Best Actor, for his work in the dramedy Lilies of the Field.

"This is a big one," wrote Davis, who won her own Oscar in 2017 for her turn in Fences. "No words can describe how your work radically shifted my life. The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and sheer electricity you brought to your roles showed us that we, as Black folks, mattered!!! It was an honor."

Spencer recalled having met the late actor and civil rights activist. Although she was the one who had just won an award, she said that she was "shell shocked and sweaty," so flustered at the sight of the In the Heat of the Night star that she couldn't think of anything to say. When she was finally able to say what she was thinking — "I love you" — he responded kindly.

"He told me he expected great things for me," Spencer wrote. "There's something about hearing those words from a pioneer that changes you!"

Acclaimed actor Don Cheadle gave an emotional statement to Yahoo Entertainment.

"Gutted. again. Lost another royal. Sir Poitier had no peer, and we'll never see his like again. He was the standard bearer for generations of actors/directors who came after him," Cheadle said. "The last time I saw Sidney was at a golf course in LA. I saw him across the room and walked toward him with my hand out to shake his. Ignoring my hand, he opened both of his arms wide and embraced me warmly. Then he let me go and held me at arm's length staring me in my eyes and said in his signature cadence, 'I dig what you do, my man.' I almost fainted. He told me to keep it up and keep representing us. I told him I would do my best and that he was irreplaceable. We were so blessed to have him for as long as we did, and he will be sorely and surely missed."

Washington provided his statement to The Daily Beast:

"It was a privilege to call Sidney Poitier my friend," Washington said. "He was a gentle man and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years. God bless him and his family."

And the tributes didn't stop, praising Poitier personally and professionally.

As Kerry Washington wrote, "We lost an elegant King today. Thank you Sidney Poitier. For not only opening the door, but for walking in this world with endless grace and excellence, so that today, still, we follow behind you, reaching toward the example that you set."

Here are just some of the others: