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Renowned Black actor Clarence Williams III dies at 81

Williams died Friday (June 4) at his home in Los Angeles.

Clarence Williams III Getty

Clarence Williams III, the renowned Black actor who played undercover cop Linc Hayes on “The Mod Squad” has died. He was 81.

The Associated Press reports that Williams died Friday (June 4) at his home in Los Angeles. Williams’ manager Allan Mindel told AP Sunday that the actor died from colon cancer.

Williams was born on August 21, 1939 in New York City. He was raised by his grandmother and became interested in acting at an early age. His first major roles were in plays. He appeared on Broadway in The Long Dream. He also acted in Walk in Darkness and Sarah and the Sax. After a brief stint in the military, Williams returned to NYC and in 1965 he received a Tony Award nomination for best featured actor in a play for his part in William Hanley’s Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.

The smooth New York native is best known for playing the character “Linc Hayes” in the show The Mod Squad from 1968 to 1973. Williams was considered to be a Black power icon at the time because of his role in the show. Fans grew to love Williams’ big Afro and his character’s catchy lines like “keep the faith” and “solid.”

In a 1999 interview, Williams said, “All most people know about me is the two hours they’ve invested in a movie theater or the time spent in front of their TV. There’s so much entertainment out there right now, it’s difficult to break through and become part of the national consciousness. It’s nice to be recognized, and I have no problem with it at all.”

Williams was a versatile actor, appearing in movies like Half Baked, Purple Rain, Deep Cover, Tales from the Hood, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and Sugar Hill. On the small screen, the talented actor starred in “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Twin Peaks,” “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Hill Street Blues.” He also appeared in two Ja Rule music videos: “Down Ass Chick” featuring Ashanti and Charli Baltimore and “Down 4 U” featuring Ashanti, Vida and Charli Baltimore. He is survived by his sister Sondra Pugh, daughter Jamey Phillips and niece Suyin Shaw.

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