Clarence Williams III, ‘The Mod Squad’ and ‘Purple Rain’ star, dies at 81

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You might know him from playing badguy drug lord “Samson Simpson” in the movie Half Baked with Dave Chappelle or for portraying Linc Hayes on “The Mod Squad” and Prince’s father in “Purple Rain,” and many other iconic roles over the decades Clarence Williams III, passed away on Friday. He was 81. His management company confirmed his death to Variety, citing the cause as colon cancer.

Clarence Williams broke through in 1968 as one of the stars of the counterculture cop show “The Mod Squad,” also starring then-unknown actors Peggy Lipton and Michael Cole. He was a mainstay of the series until its end in 1973, and went on to have a career in film, television and theater spanning four decades.

He later went on to star as Prince’s father in 1984’s “Purple Rain” and had a recurring role as FBI Agent Roger Hardy on the TV show “Twin Peaks.” He also had a long time collaboration with director John Frankenheimer, playing Bobby Shy in 1986’s “52 Pick-Up,” Chaka in 1994’s “Against the Wall,” Archie in the 1997 TV movie “George Wallace” and Merlin in 2000’s “Reindeer Games.”

Born in New York City on Aug. 21, 1939, Williams began his career in acting on stage in “Dark of the Moon” in 1957, directed by Vinette Caroll. He also starred opposite Geraldine Page in “The Great Outdoors” on Broadway. In 1965, Williams earned a Tony nomination and Theatre World award for his starring performance in “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.” Williams’ other theater credits include co-starring with Maggie Smith in Tom Stoppard’s “Night and Day” and leading Joseph Papp’s “King John” at the Delacorte Theatre.

Williams’ other film credits include “The General’s Daughter,” “Sugar Hill,” “Half Baked,” “Deep Cover,” “Hoodlum,” “The Brave,” “Happy Here and Now,” “The Legend of 1900” and “Life.” More recently, Williams appeared in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” in 2013 as Maynard.

Williams is survived by his sister Sondra Pugh, daughter Jamey Phillips, niece Suyin Shaw, grandnephews Elliot Shaw and Ese Shaw and grandniece Azaria Verdin.

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