Sidney Poitier Dead: Classic Film Icon & First Black Man To Win An Oscar Dies At 94

The film industry faced a tragic loss. Famed actor Sidney Poiter passed away at the age of 94 on Friday January 7.

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Sidney Poitier has reportedly died at 94 on Friday January 7, via The Independent. The actor was famous for his powerful performances as well as his later career as an ambassador. He also was the first Bahamian and African American to win an Academy Award in 1964 for Lilies of the Field. The actor’s death was shared by Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell, and no cause of death has been reported yet.

His family issued a statement about the sad news hours after his death was confirmed. “There are no words to convey the deep sense of loss and sadness we are feeling right now. We are so grateful he was able to spend his last day surrounded by his family and friends. To us Sidney Poitier was not only a brilliant actor, activist, and a man of incredible grace and moral fortitude, he was also a devoted and loving husband, a supportive and adoring father, and a man who always put family first,” they wrote.

Sidney was a Hollywood icon, since making his debut in 1950. (David Buchan/Shutterstock)

“He is our guiding light who lit up our lives with infinite love and wonder. His smile was healing, his hugs the warmest refuge, and his laughter was infectious. We could always turn to him for wisdom and solace and his absence feels like a giant hole in our family and our hearts. Although he is no longer here with us in this realm, his beautiful soul will continue to guide and inspire us. He will live on in us, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren—in every belly laugh, every curious inquiry, every act of compassion and kindness. His legacy will live on in the world, continuing to inspire not only with his incredible body of work, but even more so with his humanity,” they added.

“We would like to extend our deepest appreciation to every single one of you for the outpouring of love from around the world. So many have been touched by our dad’s extraordinary life, his unwavering sense of decency and respect for his fellow man. His faith in humanity never faltered, so know that for all the love you’ve shown him, he loved you back,” the statement concluded.

Sidney was born in Miami, Florida on February 20, 1927. His parents were actually from the Bahamas, where he would grow up with limited education and exposure to the world outside of his family’s farm. The family moved to the Bahamian capital of Nassau when he was 12 and then he saw his first movie. Sidney’s father encouraged him to move to the United States since he was already a citizen so that he could provide for himself.

After a brief stint in the Army, Sidney found the American Negro Theater in New York City. He worked as a janitor in exchange for acting classes. One night Harry Belafonte could not go on and Sidney was called in to perform where he impressed the audience and 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 left a profound mark on Hollywood through his work in films like Cry, The Beloved Country, Blackboard Jungle, A Patch of Blue, and Raisin In The Sun. He became of a bona-fide movie star appearing along side Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones and Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Sidney continued making movies until 2001. His final acting appearance was in the TV movie The Last Brickmaker in America. He continued to make appearances in various documentaries and specials, like when he presented the Academy Award for Best Director at the 2014 Oscars.

Sidney has been honored by President Barack Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. He received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in 1974. He always maintained a duel citizenship with the United States and the Bahamas and was asked by the island nation to serve as an ambassador to Japan 1997.

He also served as the Bahamas ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. On top of all that, Sidney wrote several books including his spiritual autobiography called The Measure of a Man. He married Juanita Hardy in 1950 and they had four daughters. The couple divorced in 1965 and Sidney married Joanna Shimkus in 1976. They had two daughters together.