Speed Reads

R.I.P.

Legendary actor Sidney Poitier dies at 94

Sidney Poitier, the legendary actor who made history by becoming the first Black man to win the Oscar for Best Actor, has died. He was 94. 

Poitier's death was reported Friday by Eyewitness News Bahamas and by TMZ, which said the news was confirmed by the Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

Poitier won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964 for Lilies of the Field, which made him the first Black actor to ever receive that honor. "It is a long journey to this moment," he said in his acceptance speech. Poitier had previously been nominated for his performance in The Defiant Ones, and he was also known for his roles in movies like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night.

Poitier directed numerous films, as well, including Buck and the Preacher and Stir Crazy, and he served as Bahamian ambassador to Japan from 1997 through 2007. Then-President Barack Obama honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. "Poitier not only entertained, but enlightened, shifting attitudes, broadening hearts, revealing the power of the silver screen to bring us closer together," Obama said.

At the 2002 Oscars, Denzel Washington presented Poitier with an honorary award. 

"Before Sidney, African American actors had to take supporting roles in major studio films that were easy to cut out in certain parts of the country," Washington reflected. "But you couldn't cut Sidney Poitier out of a Sidney Poitier picture. He was the reason a movie got made, the first solo, above the title African American movie star."

Actor Jeffrey Wright was among those to pay tribute to Poitier on Friday, remembering him as a "landmark actor" and a "beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man."