Rev. Matthew Miles Williams Sr. was the moderator of the Eastern Keystone Baptist Association and under his leadership, the merger of a number of associations, now known as the Pennsylvania Eastern Keystone Baptist Association of Philadelphia came to fruition. He was an active member of the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention and its sub-districts, and was also an active member and supporter of the Foreign Mission Board and the Progressive Baptist Convention. He died Sept. 24. He was 89.
Williams was born to Rev. Charles E. Williams and Ethel Williams on Oct. 27, 1921 in Montgomery County, Pa. He attended Lamont Elementary School in Elkins Park, Shoemaker Junior High and graduated from Overbrook High School.
After graduation, Williams married Genevieve Newton. That union produced three wonderful children, the late Matt Jr., Agnes and Malcolm. He started his career working for the United States Postal Services and after many years of dedicated service, he retired to devote his life to his spiritual studies.
Williams graduated from the Philadelphia College of the Bible and the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Williams was licensed to preach by the Rev. C.W. Gregory at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia and he served as Rev. Calvin Jones’ associate minister for 10 years in the Mt. Hebron Baptist Church.
In August of 1964, Williams was installed as pastor of The People’s Baptist Church. As pastor he was a positive influence on his congregation and the community at large for 45 years.
Williams was also a gifted trombonist and often played his trombone to the glory of God in services and programs.
Upon his retirement, Williams was awarded several citations from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for his years of loyal and dedicated service to God and humanity.
Williams is survived by: wife, Genevieve; two children, Agnes Wilson and Malcolm Williams; four grandchildren; two siblings; six great-grandchildren’ one great-great-grandchild; and a host of family and friends.
A viewing will be held Oct. 2 at The People’s Baptist Church, 5039 Baltimore Ave. The viewing will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Services will be held Oct. 3 at The People’s Baptist Church. The viewing will be held 9–11 a.m. The service will start at 11 a.m. Yarborough and Rocke handled the arrangements.
Rosamond Sylvester Lindsey, known to many as Syl, was an educator and principal in the Philadelphia School District. He was also a charter member of Omega Psi Phi, Beta Gamma-Cheyney. He died Sept. 4. He was 86.
Lindsey was born July 16, 1925, to Rosamond Burnell Lindsey and Christina Brown Lindsey in Philadelphia. His family relocated to Schwenkville, Pa., where he began his elementary education. He spent two years in Schwenkville. The next two years of schooling were spent in Kulpsville, Pa. The family’s next real move was to Pennlyn, Pa., where he completed five years of his schooling. He graduated from Abington High School in Abington, Pa.
The United States Army drafted Lindsey in October 1944. He served in the European Theater. After completing his military service, he returned to the States to continue his education at Cheyney State University. He received his bachelor of science degree in elementary education. While at Cheyney, he was initiated as a charter member of Beta Gamma Chapter, Omega Psi Phi. He was a financial member of Mu Omega Chapter and was recently recognized as a 60 plus member of omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
He furthered his education at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his Master of Science Degree in Elementary Education. He became a teacher at the G.W. Childs School and later rose to the ranks of Principal. He retired from the School District of Philadelphia in July of 1991.
He received Jesus Christ at an early age at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Pennlyn. He joined Union Baptist Church under the pastorate of Rev. Dr. Laurance George Henry. He left Union Baptist Church with the Rev. Dr. Laurance George Henry to become a founding member of Christ Community Baptist Church.
As a member, he was in the trustee ministry where he served as ministry leader and treasurer. He was a financial member of the men’s ministry and supported Christ Community Baptist Church in all of its endeavors.
Among his other endeavors were Roundtable, Sunday Supper Club, Viri Viginit and Ye Olde Philadelphia Club. He was counted among the Lords for Top ladies of distinction.
He married Christine Henry on August 25, 1956 by Rev. Joseph Kirkland. From this union, they had three children.
Lindsey leaves to mourn: wife, Christine; three children, Rosamond Sylvester Lindsey Jr., Christine Nanette Lindsey Steptoe and Laurie Elizabeth Lindsey; daughter-in-law, Shahnaz Lindsey Muhammad; son-in-law, Nicholas Steptoe; seven grandchildren, Lauren, Laurance, Darius, Aiysha, Khalid, Nicholas Jr., and Jeremy; brother, Theodore Lawrence Lindsey; brothers-in-law, John Henry and Russell Gardner; sisters-in-law, Verna Gardner, Doris Johnson and Gloria Carlisle and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Services will be held Sept. 12 at Christ Community Baptist Church, 1224-30 North 41st St. The viewing will be at 9 a.m. The service will start at 11. Waller-Robinson Gray Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Derrick Albert Bell Jr. was a law professor, legal scholar and racial justice advocate. He was a man of many accomplishments and was best known for his work in the field of critical race theory, a term he coined that embodies scholarship on race, racism and power, and examines how racism is embedded in all laws and legal institutions. He died October 5 from carcinoid cancer at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. He was 80.
Bell’s work in promoting the study of critical race theory has inspired similar disciplines such as Latino Critical Race Studies and Asian American Critical Race Studies. He was described as being both an iconoclast and a community leader.
He was born on Nov. 6, 1930, in Pittsburgh to Derrick Albert and Ada Elizabeth Childress. After graduating from Schenley High School near Pittsburgh’s Hill District, he became the first member of his family to go to college, attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1952.
A member of the R.O.T.C. at Duquesne, he was later an Air Force officer for two years, one of them in Korea. Afterward he attended the University of Pittsburgh Law School, where he was the only Black student, earning his degree in 1957.
After his stint at the Justice Department, he headed the Pittsburgh office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, leading efforts to integrate a public swimming pool and a skating rink. Later, assigned to Mississippi, he supervised more than 300 school desegregation cases.
In 1969, after teaching briefly at the University of Southern California, he was recruited and hired by Harvard Law School, where students were pressuring the administration to appoint a Black professor. Bell conceded that he did not have the usual qualifications for a Harvard professorship, like a federal court clerkship or a degree from a top law school.
Although he worked tirelessly to expose racism, Bell was not an eternal optimist. His idea of “the interest convergence dilemma” said that whites would not join efforts to improve the position of Blacks unless they found it in their interest.
In addition to his scholarly contributions, Bell believed that his personal decisions made as much of a statement about his beliefs as did the content of any of his professional work, a sentiment he expressed in his 2002 memoir “Ethical Ambition.”
“Your faith in what you believe must be a living, working faith that draws you away from comfort and security, and toward risk through confrontation,” he wrote.
Bell lived this maxim throughout his life, seemingly undeterred by the lure of prestige or power, and many of his most storied accomplishments were accompanied by resignations and protest.
In 1971, Bell became the first tenured Black professor at Harvard Law School, but he resigned from the prestigious post when he felt he had been discriminated against after a white university vice president tried to purchase a house that Bell had been previously offered through university.
While working at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, Bell resigned from his job after his bosses advised him to give up his NAACP membership because they felt it was a conflict of interest.
In 1980, Bell became the first Black dean of a non-HBCU law school when he accepted the position at the University of Oregon School of Law. Bell’s tenure as dean was short lived, however. He resigned in 1985 when an Asian woman was denied tenure at the school.
Bell’s final act of professional protest occurred when he was invited back to Harvard to teach. He vowed to take an unpaid leave of absence until the school agreed to add a Black woman on its tenured faculty for the first time. Bell eventually left Harvard behind the incident and began teaching at New York University School of Law, where he worked until his death.
Bell is survived by: wife, Janet Dewart Bell; children, Derrick A. Bell III, Douglas Dubois Bell and Carter Robeson Bell; two sisters, Janet Bell and Constance Bell; and a brother, Charles Bell.
—BET News and The New York Times contributed to this report.
Junious Alexander Rhone Jr., known to all who knew him as “Jay,” formed his own computer business, “WARP10 Solutions.”
In April 2010, after many years of working on, building and fixing problem computers for friends, family and clients, he became certified as an IT technician.
In 2011, he received his Microsoft certification as a systems administrator. He also maintained and designed the Mount Carmel Baptist Church website.
Rhone died on Feb. 7 after a short illness. He was 51.
Rhone was born in 1961 in Philadelphia on New Year’s Day. He was the only child of Junious A. Rhone Sr. and Shirley Redcross Rhone.
He attended Waldron Academy and graduated from Friends Central High School. Following his graduation from Friends, he attended Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. and Hampton University in Hampton, Va., where he majored in business administration.
He was baptized at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in his early years, and later, as an adult, served on the usher board. He moved on to join the trustee board of the Church and to serve as chair of the Computerization Committee.
He first married April Alexander with whom he has a son, Junious A. Rhone III, who is better known as “Alex.” On September 24, 1993, he later married Robin Dickerson.
His work career includes several years as a Pay-Per-View Manager and Supervisor at the former Wade Cablevision. Later, he was employed by Comcast Cable as a National Marketing Coordinator, a Customer Service Supervisor and as a National Service and Installation Project Coordinator.
His family said he excelled at training others. He worked for both the Metropolitan Career Center and at Solutions for Progress in the capacity of trainer. He moved on to work for Action AIDS in Philadelphia, as an IS Technical Support Specialist.
At the time of his death, he was employed once again at the Comcast organization, this time as a business service technician in the company’s Horsham office.
In this capacity, he assisted business subscribers with their cable, television, telephone and internet problems and concerns. At the same time, he was also enrolled at the New Horizons Computer Learning Center in pursuit of a MCTIP certification in Windows 7.
Following his diagnosis of multiple myeloma more than a decade ago, he became an ardent advocate for the Cancer Support Community (formerly the Wellness Community of Philadelphia), participating in their many programs and being a part of a support group.
Rhone’s family said he loved all things Star Trek, DC comics books, especially Superman, working on computers, going fly fishing, listening to the music of the Beatles, Prince, Yolanda Adams and Elton John, cheering and praying for the Philadelphia Eagles, cultivating his vegetable garden and building remote control model airplanes.
He was remembered as cherishing his family with a passion. He was devoted to his church. He endeavored to be loyal to his many friends. He was a people person, possessed an inquiring mind and quick wit, loved his cat Coco and especially, his bichon frise, Callie, whom some of his family members referred to as his “daughter.”
Rhone is survived by: parents, Junious Sr. and Shirley; wife, Robin; his son, Junious III; daughter-in-law, Ronnecia; uncle, Mercer A. Redcross Sr.; great-aunt, Zetherine Rhone; and a host of cousins and friends.
Services will be held Feb. 17 at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 5732 Race St. The viewing will be at 9 a.m. The service will start at 11 a.m. Wood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Funeral services have been scheduled for Moses Walker Jr.
Walker, 40, was a 19-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department.
He was shot and killed on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, shortly after finishing his shift at District 22.
Moses entered the Philadelphia Police Academy in March 1993 as a recruit. In August 1993, he was promoted to the rank of police officer and like many rookie officers, was assigned to foot patrol in the Department’s Center City District. After walking the beat in Center City for several months, he was assigned to the 22nd District on March 31, 1994. Moses would find a home patrolling the streets of North Central for the next 18 years. He was known by both his fellow officers and the residents he served as a courteous, polite and humble man.
His service extended past the police department. He was also an active member of the Deliverance Evangelistic Church where he served as a deacon. There, he was known as an optimistic man who always saw the good in people.
He is survived by his mother and five siblings.
A viewing will be held Aug. 26 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Deliverance Evangelistic Church, 2001 Lehigh Avenue.
A second viewing will be held Aug. 27 from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Deliverance Evangelistic Church. Services will follow at 10 a.m. Burial will be held in Fernwood Cemetery, 6501 Baltimore Avenue.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 will hold a fundraiser to support Walker’s family on Aug. 27 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at 1336 Spring Garden St.
John Carlton Patillo was a respected photographer in the city. He served as the primary photographer for the local Journal Register Company community newspapers including The Leader, Mount Airy Times-Express and The Germantown Courier.
As a freelance photographer he also took photographs for local elected officials including Mayor Michael Nutter, District Attorney Seth Williams, Ninth District Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco, state Reps. Dwight Evans and Cherelle Parker, and many others. He also photographed the Rev. Jesse Jackson, concert pianist Andre Watts, comedian Bill Cosby, singer Patti LaBelle, Congressman Chaka Fattah, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, poet Sonia Sanchez, best selling author Karen Quinones Miller, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishop T. D. Jakes and many others.
Patillo died on February 6 of lung cancer. He was 48.
Patillo was born on November 27, 1963, in Philadelphia to John Patillo Jr. and Carla Mae Patillo. He grew up in Philadelphia and was a member of the West Oak Lane Church of God. He was a graduate of Parkway High School where he majored in photography, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, also as a photography major. He later attended the Philadelphia Area Accelerated Manufacturing Education or PhAME program with a major in machine operation.
As an adolescent, he met the former Gladys Smith who became his high school sweetheart. The couple married on August 1, 1987. They had one daughter, Tiana. John joined the military and the family was stationed in Aberdeen, Maryland, and later in Louisiana, before they relocated back to Philadelphia.
His wife remembers that from the very first time they met he took pictures of her. He then went on to pursue a career as a professional photographer.
Among the many pictures he was particularly proud of taking were those of President Barack Obama. His most recent photograph of the president was at a pre-Election Day rally in Germantown during October 2010. It appeared on the front cover of the October 20, 2010, edition of The Leader.
He also photographed then Sen. Obama on various campaign trails during 2008 at Abington High School, Vernon Park in Germantown and other locations. Additionally, he photographed members of Obama’s administration when they came to Philadelphia for the National Convention of the Association of Black Journalists last summer.
His family said that one of Patillo’s favorite hobbies was listening to WURD 900AM to keep abreast of the local African-American community.
Patillo was aware of the contributions African Americans had made to the country including securing the right to vote.
Consequently he was a champion of voter’s rights and would insist that those around him not only register to vote but make it to the polls on Election Day. He was also an avid supporter of President Barack Obama and despite not feeling well decided it was important to take photographs when Obama for America opened its Philadelphia Center City headquarters on October 13, 2011.
Patillo also had a strong spiritual side. When he took photographs at various houses of worship or for religious organizations one could often find him staying for the entire service or meeting. His family was aware of his keen insight and wisdom far beyond his years. Yet he still had a wonderful sense of humor that kept those in his presence in laughter. Even after being diagnosed with lung cancer, his natural wit, strong faith and far-sighted wisdom never faded.
In addition, Patillo was a lover of sports. One of his primary areas of focus was training his nephews. He also avidly photographed young athletes. He would attend little league sporting events where he would photograph every player and coach. He also followed Philadelphia teams.
Furthermore, he expressed a strong love and commitment to his family. One of the treasures of his life was his granddaughter, Kennedi.
Patillo leaves to mourn: wife, Gladys Patillo; daughter, Tiana Carlisa Patillo; granddaughter, Kennedi Victoria Patillo; mother, Carla Mae Patillo; three brothers, Gregory “Yogi,” Terry “J.D.” and Gary; two sisters, Belinda and LaTonyia; aunts, Loretta, Diane, Cindy, Janet, Lois, Ruby and Marie; uncles, James, Danny and Jasper; and many other relatives, friends, colleagues and associates.
His father John Patillo Jr. and grandparents John and Frances Patillo as well as Carlton and Eddie Mae Staggers all preceded him in death.
Services will be held Feb. 14 at the West Oak Lane Church of God, Washington Lane and Limekiln Pike. The viewing will be from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. The service will start at 10 a.m.
J.E. Williams Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Robert “Jay” McKee, who has been described as a gentle giant and was a former Sprite Slam Dunk champion, has died. He was 24.
He was born in Whiteville, N.C. on June 17, 1988 to Elicia D. McKee and Albert L. McCullum. When he departed this life on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, the basketball community and the city of Philadelphia lost a bright shining star.
Affectionately known as “Jay,” he came to Philadelphia at the age of one and became a product of the public school system. He attended Harrington Elementary School and played basketball and football at numerous recreation centers in the city. He showed promise of becoming a great basketball player. He then attended Shaw Middle School and Southern High School. While at Southern, he played basketball as a center and power forward and graduated in 2006.
McKee won the Sprite Slam Dunk contest in 2009 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. He also served as a coach in the Henry Hill little league basketball league at 12th and Carpenter streets.
He was the brother of Tywain McKee, who plays international basketball, the grandson of Evengelist Helen McKee, and the father of Tari Armani Fulton.
A viewing will be held on Sept. 14 at from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Victory Christian Center, 5220 Whitby Ave. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Interment will be at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Francis Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
A strong and passionate voice for those too sick, addicted, uneducated or oppressed to speak for themselves, Rev. Curtis William Wadlington was a force of life that inspired and empowered many.
He died Aug. 9, 2012, following a brief illness. He was 55.
Born in Philadelphia on July 31, 1957, as one of six children to the late Eugene Elmore Wadlington and the late Hazel Elizabeth Wadlington, both of Philadelphia, Wadlington was known and respected in many circles. He was known in religious circles for his clergy work, in human service circles for his work with wayward youth and recovering addicts, and in the gay and lesbian community for helping develop and establish BEBASHI (Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues), the nation’s first and largest AIDS prevention organization.
What began as an effort in 1986 to educate often-ignored people about a little-known and much-feared virus, BEBASHI grew from operating on a $50,000 budget to operating on a $2 million budget for programs that targeted more than 25,000 people a year.
Wadlington grew up in Southwest Philadelphia and was educated in the Philadelphia public school system. He graduated with honors from Community College of Philadelphia with an associate’s degree in sociology. Wadlington continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and at the time of his death, had been accepted into Temple University’s Honors Program, majoring in theology.
His approach to addressing social issues was often unique and ahead of its time. With BEBASHI, he tried to minimize the discomfort of discussing safe sex with teenagers by having them blow up condoms and examine the texture.
The kids “see (the condoms) are just latex,” he said in a story in the Philadelphia Daily News.
“After that, we make sure (the kids) understand that if they don’t use one, they put their life at risk.”
When a Christmas toy drive delivered hundreds of collected toys to HIV-infected children at city hospital clinics and living in shelters, Wadlington told a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, “We try to give some happiness in the midst of the struggle.”
Such mercy and compassion was typical for Wadlington. At the age of 16, he became the youngest person licensed by the United Methodist Church as a lay speaker.
He began a career in human services as a youth and family services counselor for delinquent youth in the family courts, mental health technician to special education experimental classrooms, and educational liaison to the board of education for dependent and neglected youth in treatment. He put that experience to work in the early 1980s to assist a friend, Rhasidah Abdul Khabeer, in developing BEBASHI.
Wadlington traveled in the United States and Africa developing prevention education programs and serving as a consultant to the National Football League, World Health Organization, African National Congress, Cameroon Ministry of Health, U.S. Army, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and numerous others.
Longtime community activist, David Fair, in a Facebook post, called Wadlington “One of the unsung heroes of my life ... who taught me so much and proved how powerful an unbroken spirit can be.”
When churches were initially confused about how to respond to HIV/AIDS, Wadlington began visiting hospitals, ministering hope and preaching funerals because no one else would. He believed everyone had a right to access God, and he used that as his mantra.
In 1995, and with 25 members, Wadlington founded and served as senior pastor at The Church Down the Way located in Millcreek, which was at the time one of the most violent and drug infested neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
The church soon established Millcreek Community Partnerships, a non-profit organization that serves as a catalyst for arts and culture, education, community based-initiatives, urban re-development and empowerment in Mill Creek.
Wadlington’s sister, Cheryl Ann Wadlington, called her brother “my hero, my friend, the family patriarch and the reason for the success” of her Evoluer House non-profit for at-risk teen girls.
“He saved souls and transformed the lives of people around the world. My brother left a legacy of greatness and goodness. He will live on in the hearts of many,” said Cheryl Ann.
Wadlington was preceded in death by brother, Eugene and sisters, Edna and Linda Wadlington.
Wadlington is survived by sisters, Cheryl Ann Wadlington, Rashida Abdul Karim and Jean Francis Wadlington; brothers, Albert Wadlington and Kenneth Wadlington; nephew, Justin Wadlington and niece, Chantay Wadlington, whom he helped raise; three young men he raised as sons, Darnell Simpson, Isaiah Proctor and Shadow Harris; special friends, Carlene Wyche and Cass Green; and other relatives and friends.
Services will be held August 25 at Ward A.M.E. Church, 4301 Aspen St. Viewing is at 9 a.m. Services will follow at 11 a.m. Burial will be in Merion Memorial Park in Bala Cynwyd.
Eldridge Witherspoon Smith Jr., also known as “Butter,” was Temple University’s first African-American director of admissions.
Smith died Oct. 25, 2011. He was 72.
Smith was born to the late Eldridge W. Smith Sr. and Josephine A. Smith on Aug. 21, 1939, in Philadelphia.
He was raised and educated in Philadelphia. He attended Philadelphia public schools, graduating from West Philadelphia High School at the age of 16; he then received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Education from Cheyney University in 1964. As a strong believer in continuing his education, he went on to attend Temple University to complete his master’s of education degree in School Counseling in 1974.
Smith was brought up attending and serving in church with his parents. He accepted the Lord as his personal Savior at a young age and actively served within the ministry as a Sunday school teacher and youth leader at St. Matthew AME Church.
In May of 1969, Smith wed Theresa King and from this union two children were born, Whitney Michele Smith and Evan Wade Smith.
Professionally, Smith pursued several careers with the Opportunities Industrialization Center and Phiko Ford before beginning his career with Temple University.
In 1969, he was appointed as associate director of the Temple Opportunity Program, which recruited academically talented students from low-income families. In 1976, he was given the assignment to reorganize and manage Temple’s Student Resource Center, a unit that provided support services to students with the help of federal, state and university funding.
In 1977, Smith was appointed as Temple’s associate director of admissions. After a nationwide search and selection from more than 100 applications, Smith was confirmed as Temple’s first African-American director of admissions in 1984. Local newspapers and Jet magazine acknowledged this honor.
He finished his tenure at Temple as a director, consulting on special assignment in the Office of Community Relations at Temple University Hospital, until retiring in 1995.
After taking time to enjoy his retirement, Smith desired to continue his service in education and later entered the Philadelphia School System where he worked with special needs high school students and adults until his retirement in June of 2010.
Smith was a strong advocate of education, and he helped many young people get into college. Many of these students were first generation college students and found success when they were recommended to meet with him at Temple for an opportunity of admission.
He married Norma Jean Hill on Nov. 28, 1987.
In his spare time, Smith enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, and socializing and watching sporting events as he was an ardent fan of the Philadelphia Eagles and Sixers basketball team.
Smith is survived by his wife, Norma Jean Smith; daughter, Whitney Smith Williams (John); son, Evan Wade Smith; brother, Robert Smith; stepsons, Richard and Robert Hill; grandchildren, Jayda, Ryan and Nia Faith; step granddaughter, Chardé Hill; niece, Dianne Robinson; and other relatives and friends.
Services will be held Friday, Nov. 4 at Vine Memorial Baptist Church, 5600 West Girard Avenue. Viewing is at 10 a.m. Services to follow at 11. Burial is in Eden Cemetery.
Veteran Emmy Award-winning actor Al Freeman Jr. has died. He was 78-years-old.
The son of African-American stage actor Al Freeman (1884-1956), Al Freeman Jr. was born Albert Cornelius Freeman Jr. on March 21, 1934, in San Antonio, Texas. The cause of death, which occurred Aug. 9, 2012, has not been disclosed.
His career, as an actor primarily, as well as a writer and director, spanned several decades, dating back to the 1950s.
He made his big screen debut in 1960’s melodrama “The Rebel Breed.”
Most notably, in 1967, Freeman Jr. co-starred with Shirley Knight in the film version of Leroi Jones’ (Amiri Baraka’s) off-Broadway play Dutchman, in a performance that earned him excellent reviews, and further attention for his portrayal of a Black subway passenger victimized by a frantic, white woman.
Dutchman would later be adapted for the screen, with Freeman Jr. and Knight reprising their roles — a film we’ve featured on this site on more than one occasion, and will likely feature again shortly, in light of today’s news.
Three years later, Freeman Jr. co-starred with Patty Duke in the landmark TV movie, “My Sweet Charlie” (1970). He played a volatile New York City lawyer stranded in a small Texas town with a white, unwed mother.
Freeman Jr. is likely best known to daytime-drama fans for his lengthy stint as Lt. Ed Hall on “One Life to Live” — a role that won him a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series in 1979, and setting his place in history as the first African-American actor to win that specific award.
And more recently, he’ll also be remembered for his portrayal of Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee’s 1992 opus “Malcolm X” — a role he first played in the 1979 miniseries, “Roots: The Next Generations.” He received an NAACP image award for his movie portrayal.
Freeman was also a screenwriter, penning screenplays for Ossie Davis’ “Countdown at Kusini” (1976), and was a director himself, helming (and starring in) the 1971 feature A Fable, from a script written by Amiri Baraka, based on his own play (“The Slave: A Fable”), about a Black radical who violently and fatally torments his white ex-wife and children, after they start a new family with a white man.
On TV, Freeman Jr. appeared in serials like “The Cosby Show” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.”
His Broadway theatre credits include “Blues for Mister Charlie” (1964), “Look to the Lilies” (1970) and “Medea” (1974).
Up until his death, Freeman Jr. was a professor at Howard University in the Department of Theatre Arts, teaching acting. He served as chairman/artistic director of the department for six years.