Pioneering actor Al Freeman Jr., best known for his role in the 90′s Spike Lee flick “Malcolm X,” died Thursday at the age of 78.
“It is with tremendous sadness that the passing of our beloved Professor Al Freeman, Jr. is confirmed,” Kim James Bey, chair of Howard University’s theater department said in a statement released Friday.
Freeman was a faculty member at the university for a number of a years and also served as chairman and artistic director of the theater arts department.
“He was a brilliant professor, a renowned actor and a master director who made his mark in the classroom as well as on stage, screen and television… He has mentored and taught scores of outstanding actors. He was a resounding voice of Howard and will be missed,” university spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton said in a statement.
Born in Texas to Lottie Brisette and Albert Cornelius Freeman, a jazz pianist, Freeman Jr. kicked off his film career with a part in the British drama Dutchman before landing an enduring role playing police Captain Ed Hall on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live from 1972 through 1987.
Yahoo! reports that in 1979, Albert was credited with being the first African American to win a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor for his work on the soap opera. He was also a director of One Life to Live, and was one of the first African Americans to direct a soap opera, according to Wikipedia.
Albert’s other television credits include TV series such as The Cosby Show, Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, Hot L. Baltimore, and The Edge of Night.
On the big screen, Freeman Jr. is most famous for his portrayal of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee’s 1992 film Malcolm X, a role that landed him the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.
Freeman’s theatre credits included a starring role on Broadway in James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie in 1964.