ST. LOUIS — Tributes are pouring in for groundbreaking actor Sidney Poitier who died Friday at the age of 94. In St. Louis, the founder of The Black Rep remembered Poitier as a Hollywood trailblazer and activist.
“Most people will probably remember him as a great great actor,” said Ron Himes, founder and producing director of The Black Rep. “But I think it’s equally important that he’s remembered for the work that he did during the Civil Rights Movement and the work he did to support Dr. King and the opportunities that he helped to provide for other Blacks in Hollywood.”
Himes met Poitier on many occasions and said he was a “gentleman’s gentleman.”
“Just gracious and elegant and just an aura around him that was very easy to step into and bask in,” said Himes.
In 1963, Poitier became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for best lead performance for the film “Lilies of the Field.”
Also known for his commanding roles in films “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, “In the Heat of the Night” and “To Sir with Love,” Poitier opened doors through the big screen.
“I think in some ways you could make comparisons between Barack and Sidney Poitier in terms of his appeal to the mainstream,” said Calvin Wilson, a theater critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He was someone like everyone could be comfortable with. On a personal level, he had a certain elegance. Certainly, radiated intelligence.”
Throughout his lifetime, Poitier received two more Academy Award nominations and ten Golden Globe nominations. In 2001, Poitier also received an honorary Oscar for his acting and humanitarian work.