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Louis Gossett Jr, the first black man to win Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, dies aged 87

Louis Gossett Jr in 2016 (REUTERS)
Louis Gossett Jr in 2016 (REUTERS)

Louis Gossett Junior, the first black man to win a supporting actor Oscar, has died aged 87, his family has said.

He won his Academy Award for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley alongside Richard Gere in 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.

But he is also well known for his Emmy-winning turn in seminal TV miniseries Roots, in which he played Fiddler, and for playing Calvin in Jaws 3.

No cause of death was revealed upon the announcement on Friday.

A family statement said he will be remembered as someone who walked with Nelson Mandela and who also was a great joke teller, as well as a relative who faced and fought racism with dignity and humour.

His cousin said: "Never mind the awards, never mind the glitz and glamour, the Rolls-Royces and the big houses in Malibu.

“It's about the humanity of the people that he stood for.”

Louis Gossett Jr poses with the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in An Officer and a Gentleman (AP)
Louis Gossett Jr poses with the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in An Officer and a Gentleman (AP)

Gossett became the third black Oscar nominee when he was named in the supporting actor category in 1983.

He won for his performance as the intimidating Marine drill instructor in An Officer and a Gentleman opposite Richard Gere and Debra Winger. He also won a Golden Globe for the same role.

"More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a Black actor," he wrote in his 2010 memoir, An Actor and a Gentleman.

He had earned his first acting credit in his Brooklyn high school's production of You Can't Take It with You while he was sidelined from the basketball team with an injury.

"I was hooked — and so was my audience," he wrote in his memoir.

His recent credits include a role in The Colour Purple.