Trailblazing actor, activist, and ambassador Sidney Poitier died Thursday in the Bahamas at the age of 94.
As news of his death emerged on Friday, celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Blair Underwood, and former President Barack Obama offered their condolences and honored the first Black performer to win the best actor Oscar.
Winfrey posted a photo of herself hugging the Lilies of the Field actor with the caption: “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. The utmost, highest regard and praise for his most magnificent, gracious, eloquent life.”
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Underwood tweeted a photo of the two having an intimate conversation on stage: “The gift of your time and presence over the decades is not lost on me. You’ve exemplified selflessness and service in your every waking hour. Indeed, what a beautiful life you have lived & legacy to behold. May you now rest in eternal peace kind & gracious Sir! To Sir, With Love!”
The gift of your time and presence over the decades is not lost on me. You’ve exemplified selflessness and service in your every waking hour. Indeed, what a beautiful life you have lived & legacy to behold. May you now rest in eternal peace kind & gracious Sir! To Sir, With Love! pic.twitter.com/1lJmm9cOaP
— Blair Underwood (@BlairUnderwood) January 7, 2022
President Obama shared a photo of the actor with the caption: “Through his groundbreaking roles and singular talent, Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together. He also opened doors for a generation of actors. Michelle and I send our love to his family and legion of fans.”
Viola Davis tweeted: “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..”
Morgan Freeman tweeted: “Sidney was my inspiration, my guiding light, my friend. Sending love to Joanna and his family.”
In a statement, the African American Film Critics Association also honored Poitier.
“When you think about how groundbreaking his career was, you can’t help but be in awe. In many ways, he was the ambassador of Black masculinity, almost single-handedly debunking the worst stereotypes about us, ranging from his roles as an everyman to those where he played a doctor or teacher,” said AAFCA President Gil Robertson. “He represented beauty and dignity in all that he did.”
In addition to his acting accolades, Poitier was appointed ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan in 1997, a position he held for a decade.