Sidney Poitier, a Hollywood trailblazer and the first Black man to win an Oscar for best actor, died Thursday. He was 94.
Among his long list of accolades, Poitier became the first African American actor to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actor (for “The Defiant Ones” in 1958) and six years later became the first Black man to win an Academy Award, this time for “Lilies of the Field.” Poitier’s legacy in film history is that of an icon: Many of his most memorable roles dealt with race in mainstream Hollywood films before others opted to do so.
Sidney Poitier dies at 94: The trailblazing star and first Black man to win best actor Oscar
Poitier was honored many times while he was alive: The American Film Institute included him on its 1999 list of greatest male Hollywood stars, Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 1974 and President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
After his death many stars are continuing their praise by remembering and paying homage to the “landmark actor” and “man among men.”
Viola Davis shared a picture of herself and Poitier together on Instagram writing a touching tribute to the legacy Poitier left others in Hollywood.
“The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and sheer electricity you brought to your roles showed us that we, as Black folks, mattered,” Davis wrote. “You told us,’If your dreams do not scare you, they’re not big enough!’ I put this quote on my daughter’s wall. Rest well Mr. Poitier. Thank you! Thank you for leaving a legacy. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
Tyler Perry wrote a lengthy tribute to Poitier on Facebook, labeling him as his “North Star” in the industry.
“To wake up this morning to a call that Sidney Poitier has passed away… all I can tell you is that my heart broke in another place. The grace and class that this man has shown throughout his entire life, the example he set for me, not only as a black man but as a human being will never be forgotten,” Perry wrote.
The 52-year-old screenwriter, actor and producer added details a “life changing” memory of him spending time with both Poitier and the late actress Cicely Tyson.
“I’ll never forget inviting him and Cicely to fly to South Africa with me. Selfishly, I wanted to hold them both captive for the hours long trip as I literally sat at their feet and listened to their wisdom and experiences,” he wrote. “All I can say is thank you for your life, thank you for your example, and thank you for your incredible gift. But most of all, thank you for being willing to share YOU to make us all better.”
Director Kenny Leon, who won a Tony for his 2014 rendition of the 1959 Broadway play “A Raisin in the Sun,” in which Poitier was part of the original cast, remembered Poitier by thanking “God for sharing” the actor with the world.
“Rest in dear sweet peace sir Sidney Poitier..where would we be without your sacrifices? an artist among artist-a man among men,” Leon wrote.
Whoopi Goldberg tweeted lyrics for the song that accompanied Poitier’s 1967 film “To Sir, With Love” adding “Sir Sidney Poitier R.I.P. He showed us how to reach for the stars.”
“Heart is aching. Sir Sidney Poitier was not just a great actor. He was a wonderful human being and truly the most elegant man I ever met in my life. Rest Well Dear Brother,” former “The View” host Star Jones wrote.
Rosie Perez wrote: “#SidneyPoitier’s portrayal in ‘To Sir, with love’ literally changed me.”
“Sidney Poitier. What a landmark actor. One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man. RIP, Sir. With love,” “Westworld” actor Jeffrey Wright wrote.
“The Real” co-host Loni Love shared a memory meeting Poitier, writing, “What a thrill it was to meet the legendary actor Sidney Poitier.. he made us all feel proud and was an inspiration to us in an industry that at times could not be welcoming.. thank you Mr. Poitier rest well.”
George Takei remembered Poitier as a “trailblazer who will be mourned by so many for whom he opened the very doors of Hollywood.”
“Candyman” actor Colman Domingo wrote: “Until I can properly eulogize him later. Heart broken. I am because of him. He blazed a tremendous path for thespians such as me. I am forever grateful. Standing O for this giant.”
Poitier’s acting career began with the American Negro Theater and five years later, he was starring in his first feature film: “No Way Out,” a hospital drama about a doctor (Poitier) confronted with racism by a white patient he is working to save. He went on to star in films such as “To Sir, With Love” and “In the Heat of the Night.” Over the years, he built up a reputation for playing gentle, kind and smart characters.