Clarence Williams III Dies: ‘The Mod Squad’ Actor Was 81

Clarence Williams III. Credit: CBS

Clarence Williams III, known for his portrayal of young undercover cop Lincoln “Linc” Hayes in The Mod Squad and Prince’s father in Purple Rain, has died. He was 81.

The actor’s manager Allan Mindel confirmed to the Associated Press that Williams passed away Friday at his home in Los Angeles after battling colon cancer. 

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Word of the actor’s death began spreading on social media Sunday, and tributes poured in from celebrities and fans.  

Lenny Kravitz tweeted: “When I was a kid growing up in NYC Clarence Williams III was a face on TV that I identified with and that inspired me. From the Mod Squad to Purple Rain and Sugar Hill, he always performed with dynamic energy. Rest in power, king.”

Leslie Jones added on Twitter: “When I heard Clarence Williams III had passed, I remember the night I met him at Dan Tanas in the summer of 1997!I asked for a pic with my disposable camera. He took the camera and directed every one of these pics! He was one of the nicest people I ever met. And very funny! RIP&TY #ICON” 

The official Twitter account for late music legend Prince posted: “Rest in honour, Clarence Williams III. In addition to iconic roles in The Mod Squad and Twin Peaks, Clarence will forever be remembered for his gripping performance as The Kid’s father, Francis L., in Prince’s breakthrough film Purple Rain. #ClarenceWilliamsIII” 

Williams’ career began in the theatre on Broadway in The Long Dream in 1960, and he received acclaim for his role in Slow Dance on the Killing Ground, which earned him a Tony nomination. He also recently had a role in Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

Williams was born in August 1939 in New York City, the son of a professional musician, Clarence “Clay” Williams Jr.

The actor is survived by his sister, daughter, grandnephews and grandniece.