Ken Howard, 71, died today in Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press. Howard had been an actor for four decades, starting his career as Thomas Jefferson in the 1969 musical, 1776. The 6-foot 6-inch actor was most well-known for playing Ken Reeves in the 1970’s show, The White Shadow, which depicted him as a white basketball coach at an inner-city Los Angeles high school. He grew up playing basketball in Long Island, New York and at Amherst College where he was the basketball team captain. He had pitched his idea for the television series to producer-writer Bruce Paltrow. He was nicknamed “The White Shadow” in 1961 by the Long Island press as he was the only Caucasian starter for the Manhasset High School varsity basketball team.
Beginning his career on Broadway, Ken Howard went on to appear in many television series and movies. In the TV series Dynasty, Ken Howard played Garrett Boydston, Diahann Carroll’s off-again, on-again love interest. Howard played Kabletown boss Hank Hopper in 30 Rock. In Crossing Jordan, he played Jill Hennessy’s father. Howard played opposite of Jimmy Smits in Cane and opposite Blythe Danner in Adam’s Rib. On Melrose Place, he played George Andrews, the father of characters Sydney and Jane. Ken Howard also appeared in other television series including The Colbys and Murder She Wrote. Howard made his movie debut in the 1970’s film, Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, co-starring with Liza Minnelli. Howard appeared in other movies including last year’s movie, Joy, as well as Clear and Present Danger, Michael Clayton, Rambo, In Her Shoes, The Numbers Game, and J. Edgar.
He won awards for performances during his career. In 1970, he won a Tony Award for Robert Marasco’s Child’s Play. In 1981, he received a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in Children’s Programming for The Body Human. His last award was an Emmy for the 2009 TV movie, Grey Gardens, in which he played opposite of Jessica Lange.
In 2009, Ken Howard became the president of the Screen Actors Guild that later merged with the American Federation of Television and Radio in 2012.
According to CNN, SAG-AFTRA issued a statement.
“We are deeply saddened to announce that SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard passed away today. Ken was an accomplished actor, author, teacher and unionist whose steady leadership as president of Screen Actors Guild positioned him to guide the union’s historic 2012 merger with American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. In addition to his many professional credits, awards and other laudatory work, he led the union for nearly seven years and was devoted to the interests of its membership.”
President Howard A. Rodman of The Writer’s Guild West also released a statement regarding Ken Howard.
“It was with great sadness that I learned of Ken Howard’s passing today. He was a tireless advocate for social justice, for his union, and for its members. It is a fitting tribute to his commitment to improving the lives of actors, broadcasters and recording artists that he was the first president of the united SAG-AFTRA. He will be missed as a leader and as a bright light in the creative community. On behalf of the WGAW I would like to send our condolences to his family, his friends, and all those whose lives he touched throughout his long and exemplary career.”
Ken Howard was born on March 29, 1944, in El Centro, California. He studied drama at Yale. He was survived by his wife of 25 years, Linda Fetters Howard, and three stepchildren from a previous marriage. Howard had also been married to Margo Howard, daughter of columnist Ann Landers from 1977 to 1991 and soap actress Louise Sorel from 1973 to 1975. The cause of death has not been announced.
[Image via Ron Wolfson/Invision/AP]