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Dick Anthony Williams, Blaxploitation Actor Dies

By on February 21, 2012

Dick Anthony Williams was one of the few consistently working black film and stage actors during the 1970s. Williams was highly regarded with   Tony-nominated performances and a Drama Desk Award. He died February 15, 2012 in Los Angeles at the age of 77.

Mr. Williams, who was born on Aug. 9, 1934, on the South Side of Chicago, spent four years of his childhood in a hospital being treated for polio.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Williams and the director Woodie King Jr. were co-founders of the New Federal Theater, an actors’ workshop open to professionals and amateurs, at minimal cost, at the Henry Street Settlement. The theater became a showcase for playwrights and actors including David Henry Hwang, Ntozake Shange, Amiri Baraka, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.

His signature role may have been that of a Detroit pimp, which won Mr. Williams the Drama Desk Award and a Tony nomination. It was a cautionary version of the more flamboyant character he portrayed in the blaxploitation movie “The Mack,” starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor, released in 1973.

In the early 1990s he was a regular on the ABC-TV series “Homefront.” He also had roles in many other television shows and in movies including “The Jerk” (as Steve Martin’s brother) and Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues.”

Mr. Williams is survived by two daughters, Mona and Mikah, and a son, Jason. His wife, the actress Gloria Edwards, died in 1988.


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