Oscar Winner Louis Gossett Jr. of 'An Officer and a Gentleman' Passes Away at 87

Renowned Actor Leaves Legacy of Diversity and Strength.

by Zain ul Abedin
Oscar Winner Louis Gossett Jr. of 'An Officer and a Gentleman' Passes Away at 87
© John Sciulli/Getty Images

The world of entertainment lost an icon in Louis Gossett Jr. The Academy Award-winning actor had many brilliant performances—topped by his win in "An Officer and a Gentleman." Gossett passed away at the age of 87, according to a statement from his family.

They said in a statement they were heartbroken at the "outpouring of grief and gratitude from so many people" but could not deal with media inquiries at the time. The towering achievement of Louis Gossett Jr. came in 1983 when he became the first Black to have won an Oscar in the category of supporting actor for his role as an exceedingly stringent drill instructor opposite Richard Gere.

This role notjsonlybrought his immense talent to lightit, but also stamped him as a prominent figure in Hollywood. Notable in the character of Fiddler in Alex Haley's "Roots," he presented an equally brilliant example of his unwavering commitment to portraying even the most conflicted characters with an underlying sense of honor and dignity.

Versatile Roles Highlight

Standing tall at 6’4”, Gossett's imposing presence was a perfect fit for roles that demanded authority and strength. His filmography acting gives him the chance to portray diverse characters, from a boxer in "Diggstown," to a hard villain in "The Deep," and even an alien pilot in "Enemy Mine," which explains his capability to go deep into diverse roles.

His career spanned through decades, filled with memorable rolls from the "Iron Eagle" series and so many others in film and television. The acting journey that Gossett ventured into was facilitated by a high school English teacher, and by that time, he had already gotten into his drama dreams while he was also busy and devoting himself to basketball.

With work on "A Raisin in the Sun" early in his career, it kind of set up a career that would smash barriers and set new standards in the industry. Outside of his film work, Gossett used his voice as an advocate for change, founding the Eracism Foundation in the 1990s to fight racism.

His activism and dedication to bringing social issues to light, if in any way reflected, then the energy he put in to make a change on and off the screen was literally boundless. And the bravery comes in the openness Gossett had in wanting to use his new platform in creating awareness of early detection and treatment, more so among African American men.

That, and openness about the diagnosis and advocacy for health awareness, were just testimony of the man's character. Louis Gossett Jr. will long be remembered and honored as a giant in the art of cinema and an equally giant in the art of making the dream of change he believed in so ardently come true.