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Actor Clarence Williams III dies from cancer at age 81

Actor Clarence Williams III in the 1970's. (305363)
Actor Clarence Williams III in the 1970’s.

Actor Clarence Williams III, whose career included roles as undercover cop Lincoln Hayes in the 1968-73 TV series “The Mod Squad’’ and as Prince’s father in the movie “Purple Rain’’ (1984), died on June 4 of colon cancer in Los Angeles at the age of 81.

The Harlem-born actor had numerous credits over five decades in theater, television, and film. He appeared in the movies “Sugar Hill’’ in 1993 and “The Butler’’ in 2013, and on television in “Twin Peaks’’ and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.’’

Director John Frakenheimer would become a frequent collaborator. They first teamed up for his adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “52 Pick-Up” in 1986. Williams also appeared in Frankenheimer’s “Against the Wall” (1994) and “Reindeer Games’ (2000).

Williams could command a variety of genres, including comedy. He played a drug lord opposite Dave Chappelle in “Half Baked” (1998) and stole scenes in Kenen Ivory Wayans’ Blackspoitation parody film “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka” (1988).

Other film credits include “Tales from the Hood” (1995), “Deep Cover” (1992), and “Sugar Hill” (1993). Williams had many television appearances including “Miami Vice,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Justified.”

Williams was born into a creative family. His grandfather was a jazz composer and pianist. His father was a musician and his mother, Eva Taylor, was a singer and actress. He got his acting start on Broadway and received a Tony nomination for his role in William Hanley’s “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground” in 1964.

Williams was married to actress Gloria Foster from 1967-1984. He is survived by his sister, Sondra Pugh, daughter Jamey Phillips, as well as several nieces and nephews.