Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey & More Stars Remember Sidney Poitier: ‘An Absolute Legend’

Tributes to famed actor Sidney Poitier have been pouring in on social media from celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, Viola Davis, and more.

Sidney Poitier
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Image Credit: Matt Sayles/AP/Shutterstock

The world is mourning the loss of Sidney Poitier, the famous Oscar-winning actor who died at the age of 94 on Friday January 7.  After news of Sidney’s death spread, Whoopi Goldberg, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and more public figures honored the iconic actor with beautiful tributes shared to social media. Many of the tributes featured photos of Sidney, as well as kind words about how he broke barriers for the African American community in Hollywood.

Oprah, who iconically interviewed Sidney on her show in 2000, posted a beautiful tribute for the legendary actor. “For me, the greatest of the ‘Great Trees’ has fallen: Sidney Poitier. My honor to have loved him as a mentor. Friend. Brother. Confidant. Wisdom teacher,” she penned via Instagram and Twitter. “The utmost, highest regard and praise for his most magnificent, gracious, eloquent life. I treasured him. I adored him. He had an enormous soul I will forever cherish. Blessings to Joanna and his world of beautiful daughters,” she added, referencing Joanna Shimkus, Sidney’s wife.

Whoopi also wrote a tweet in honor of Sidney. “If you wanted the sky i would write across the sky in letters that would soar a thousand feet high.. To Sir… with Love Sir,” Whoopi wrote, referencing Lulu’s song from the 1967 British drama, To Sir, With Love, that starred Sidney. “Sidney Poitier R.I.P. He showed us how to reach for the stars,” The View co-host added.

Former President Obama shared a photo of himself, wife Michelle Obama, and Sidney, from when he gave the actor the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. “Through his groundbreaking roles and singular talent, Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together,” Obama wrote. “He also opened doors for a generation of actors. Michelle and I send our love to his family and legion of fans.”

Halle Berry, who became the first Black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar in 2002, honored Sidney with a touching tribute. “’A tiny bit of myself is lost when my friends are gone,’ Sidney Poitier wrote in his book LIFE BEYOND MEASURE. My dear Sidney, an enormous part of my soul weeps at your passing,” Halle said. “In your ninety-four years on this planet, you left an indelible mark with your extraordinary talent, paving the way for Black people to be seen and heard in the fullness of who we are. You were an iconic trailblazer; yours was a life well lived. I grew up idolizing you and will always remember the day when I first met you. It is the only time in my life when I’ve been rendered speechless! There I sat, with my words glued together, and you were as gracious and charming then as you would be during our decades of friendship to follow. Rest in peace, beloved Sidney. You are and always will be the true measure of a man.”

Jeffrey Wright shared a photo of Sidney and a heartfelt message. “Sidney Poitier. What a landmark actor. One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man. RIP, Sir. With love,” he wrote on Twitter. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, meanwhile, called Sidney “an absolute legend” and “one of the greats” in his Twitter tribute.

Jeffrey Wright
Jeffrey Wright
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Garcelle Beauvais shared a selfie of her and Sidney to Instagram. She wrote, “Mr Poitier thank you for your Legacy!! You showed us what it means to be great! Rest in Power 🙏🏽🖤.” Viola Davis shared a pic of her and Sidney together as well. In her caption, Viola wrote, “This is a big one. No words can describe how your work radically shifted my life. The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and sheer electricity you brought to your roles showed us that we, as Black folks, mattered!!! It was an honor for my husband and I to share lunch with you at Spagos. 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 reacted to Sidney’s death on Facebook. Alongside past photos of the pair, Tyler shared sweet memories about the late actor and said his “heart broke” upon learning Sidney died. “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,” the famous film director wrote. “There is no man in this business who has been more of a North Star for me than Sidney Poitier. 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. It was life changing. 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.”

Denzel Washington paid tribute to the actor via a statement, reflecting on his regret that the two never worked together. Denzel did, however, present an honorary award to Sidney at the Oscars in 2002. “It was a privilege to call Sidney Poitier my friend. He was a gentle man and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years. God bless him and his family,” the Training Day star said to People.

Viola Davis
Viola Davis

Loni Love honored Sidney on Twitter by sharing an old photo of the pair together. She wrote, “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.”

Meanwhile, George Takei wrote on Twitter, “Sidney Poitier, the first Black man to win an Oscar, has died at the age of 94. The star of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” and “Lilies of the Field,” for which he won Best Actor, was a trailblazer who will be mourned by so many for whom he opened the very doors of Hollywood.” Henry Winkler wrote, “Sidney Poitier was full of grace in every aspect of his life .. He opened doors with a BOOM that came from his gentle soul RIP …”

Octavia Spencer posted a tribute with a lengthy message about meeting Sidney. “I will never forget the occasion where I met Mr. Poitier,” she wrote. “I had just won an award and he and Helen Mirren were walking through the kitchen to the stage to present. When I have an overload of adrenaline it has an adverse affect. I can’t bend my knees. So, there I am with my heels and an award in my hands, shell shocked and sweaty, GLARING at the two of them. I was searching for the one word to say but couldn’t remember any. I must’ve been a pitiful sight because he stopped with the biggest smile and congratulated me. I finally blurted out I love you… both. He told me he expected great things from me. There’s something about hearing those words from a pioneer that changes you! Thank you, Mr. Poitier!! I’ve been riding high ever since!!”

Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer

Sir #SidneyPoitier, your brilliant light will never dim,” Lenny Kravitz said in his tribute. “The doors you opened and paths you created will continue to make way for those with a dream. You showed the world that with vision and grace, all is possible.” He said in a second tweet, “our excellence will always be the benchmark. Rest in divine peace, Bahamian King. My love and condolences go out to your beautiful family. #SidneyPoitier.” 

Taraji P. Henson shared a photo of Sidney to honor the beloved icon. “Rest easy King 👑 #sidneypoitier,” Taraji said. “Thank you for kicking down the doors. Thank you will never be enough for your blood sweat tears and determination. REST IN HEAVENLY PEACE!!! We will tell the generations to come about your legacy!!!”

Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier (Photo: Matt Sayles/AP/Shutterstock)

Sidney was the first Bahamian and African American to win an Academy Award in 1964 for Lilies of the Field. Before his acting career, he had brief stint in the Army. He then found the American Negro Theater in New York City. He worked as a janitor in exchange for acting classes. Sidney landed his first official stage role in Lysistrata, which he followed up with Anna Lucasta. Sidney finally made his on-screen debut in 1950 in No Way Out.

Sidney continued making movies until 2001. His final acting appearance was in the TV movie The Last Brickmaker in America. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama in 2009 and received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in 1974. He also served as the Bahamas ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

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