Thomas Jefferson Byrd is being remembered by his friends and former collaborators following his tragic shooting death in Atlanta over the weekend.
The actor was found unresponsive at a home in the city’s southwest side on Saturday around 1:45 a.m. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene, police spokesman Officer Anthony Grant said in a statement.
Byrd’s longtime collaborator Spike Lee shared the news of Byrd’s death Sunday, and posted tributes throughout the weekend to his friend who died at the age of 70. Lee directed Byrd in Clockers, Chi-Raq, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Red Hook Summer, Bamboozled, He Got Game, Get On The Bus and Girl 6.
“Our Brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd As Da Pimp “SWEETNESS” Of Coney Island In HE GOT GAME. Photo By David Lee,” the director captioned a photo of the late actor. “May Brother Byrd Be Flying Through Those Heavenly Pearly Gates. AMEN.”
Actor Wendell Pierce wrote a tribute to his friend and fellow artist, who starred with him in the films Get On The Bus and Ray.
“Thomas Jefferson Byrd, was an actor in the unofficial repertory company of Spike Lee movies. What Joseph Cotton was to Orson Welles, Byrd was for Spike. The ‘everyman’ character actor,” Pierce tweeted. “He was a part of the Black Arts Renaissance of Fort Greene in the 80s. In GET ON THE BUS & RAY, I had the honor of sharing the screen with him. I can’t remember a time he wasn’t on the scene. What was more unique, were the late nights swinging to the music at St. Nick’s Jazz Club in Harlem. He loved that spot. In the wee small hours of the morning. Byrd was brave, funny, creative, country, smooth, expressive, and a joy to be around. He will be remembered for those iconic moments in films that make up a unique canon in American cinema. Another soulful brother gone.”
Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis also paid tribute to Byrd on Twitter.
“Oh no!!! 2020! Whaaattt!!! Loved working with you Byrd. What a fine actor you were. So sorry your life ended this way. Praying for your family. So very sorry,” she tweeted Sunday.
Byrd was shot multiple times in the back. Homicide detectives are searching for the suspect, and working to determine the circumstances surrounding the shooting.