ENTERTAINMENT

Clarence Williams III, ‘The Mod Squad’s’ Linc, Dies At 81

Jun 6, 2021, 4:44 PM | Updated: 9:12 pm
Actor Clarence Williams III arrives at the premiere of The Weinstein Company's "Lee Daniels' The Bu...
Actor Clarence Williams III arrives at the premiere of The Weinstein Company's "Lee Daniels' The Butler" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on August 12, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

(AP)

Clarence Williams III, who played the cool undercover cop Linc Hayes on the counterculture series “The Mod Squad” and Prince’s father in “Purple Rain,” has died. He was 81.

Williams died Friday at his home in Los Angeles after a battle with colon cancer, his manager Allan Mindel said Sunday. Tributes came quickly on social media from both those who worked with Williams and those who admired him for his trailblazing roles and impactful performances.

“Tales from the Hood” director Rusty Cundieff tweeted that his sadness over Williams’ passing, “cannot be overstated. His artistry and sheer coolness was extraordinary. I will forever be in his debt for his brilliant performance in Tales From the Hood. Loved working with him! Blessed travels good sir!”

Lenny Kravitz wrote on Twitter, “When I was a kid growing up in NYC Clarence Williams III was a face on TV that I identified with and that inspired me. From the Mod Squad, to Purple Rain and Sugar Hill, he always performed with dynamic energy. Rest in power, king.”

Director Peyton Reed tweeted that he worked with Williams on the TV movie “The Love Bug” in 1995.

“I had grown up watching him as Linc in ‘The Mod Squad’ and thought he was the epitome of cool. Turns out he was. Rest In Peace, Clarence,” Reed wrote.

A native of New York, Williams career spanned over five decades in theater, television and film. He was born into a creative family in 1939 and raised by his musical grandparents. His grandfather was a jazz composer and pianist, his father a musician and his mother, Eva Taylor, a singer and actress. He got his acting start on Broadway after a stint as a paratrooper and received a Tony nomination for his role in William Hanley’s “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground” in 1964.

His breakout role would come with “The Mod Squad,” which he led with Peggy Lipton and Michael Cole. Bill Cosby had seen Williams perform and told Aaron Spelling he should consider him for the role of Linc. The show ran from on ABC from 1968 through 1973. A trailblazing show for attempting to portray the hippie generation of the time, “The Mod Squad” was a star-maker for all three. But roles were not quick to follow for Williams.

He appeared on Broadway opposite Maggie Smith in Tom Stoppard’s “Night and Day” in 1979 before getting cast as the troubled father in “Purple Rain,” which came out in 1984.

Director John Frankenheimer would become a frequent collaborator. They first teamed up for his adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “52 Pick-Up” at a time when Williams was not having much luck in Hollywood and crashing on Cosby’s couch to keep a roof over his head.

“He asked me to read for the part of one of the blackmailers, but after only four lines, he told me to stop,” Williams recalled in a 1999 interview. “I thought it was all over, but he said, ‘Have your agent call me. It will be a 10-week shoot. Thank you for coming in.’ That was it.”

Williams also appeared in Frankenheimer’s “Against the Wall,” “Reindeer Games” and some episodes of “Tales from the Crypt.”

Williams could command a variety of genres, including comedy. He played a drug lord opposite Dave Chappelle in “Half Baked” and stole scenes in Keenen Ivory Wayans’ blaxploitation parody film “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.” He also had a recurring role as the FBI agent in David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” who tells Agent Cooper he’s been suspended.

Other film roles included “Tales from the Hood,” “Deep Cover,” “Sugar Hill, “The General’s Daughter,” Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” and an uncredited role in “American Gangster.” And he had many, many television appearances on everything from “Miami Vice” and “Hill Street Blues” to “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Justified.”

He was married to the actress Gloria Foster from 1967 to 1984.

Williams never fretted over his longtime association with “The Mod Squad,” though.

“All most people know about me is the two hours they’ve invested in a movie theater or the time spent in front of their TV,” he said in an interview in 1999. “There’s so much entertainment out there right now, it’s difficult to break through and become part of the national consciousness. It’s nice to be recognized, and I have no problem with it at all.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Entertainment

FILE: Loretta Lynn performs during the 16th Annual Americana Music Festival & Conference at Ascend ...
Kristin M. Hall, AP Entertainment Writer

Loretta Lynn, coal miner’s daughter and country queen, dies

Loretta Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner’s daughter who became a pillar of country music, has died. She was 90.
3 days ago
FILE - Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist, tells the audience at the Academy Awards ...
JAKE COYLE AP Film Writer

Sacheen Littlefeather, actor who declined Brando Oscar for him, dies

The actor and activist who declined Marlon Brando's 1973 Academy Award for "The Godfather" on his behalf in an indelible protest of how Native Americans had been portrayed on screen has died. Sacheen Littlefeather was 75.
4 days ago
COMMUNITY -- "Basic Human Anatomy" Episode 410 -- Pictured: (l-r) Danny Pudi as Abed, Yvette Nicole...
Leah Asmelash, CNN

A ‘Community’ movie is finally on its way

"Community," the comedy series about a group of students at a community college, will return with a long-awaited movie on Peacock.
7 days ago
The Sanderson sisters' "Hocus Pocus" cottage. Kathy Najimy said that she and her costars, Bette Mid...
Emmy Abbassi, CNN

Stay in the ‘Hocus Pocus’ house for only $31

The Sanderson sisters of "Hocus Pocus" fame are inviting guests to stay at their creepy cottage in the remote woods of Salem, Massachusetts, this Halloween season.
8 days ago
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 28: The Coolio set during Groovin The Moo 2019 on April 28, 2019 in Can...
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN

Coolio, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper, dead at 59

Coolio, the '90s rapper who lit up the music charts with hits like "Gangsta's Paradise" and "Fantastic Voyage," has died.
9 days ago
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Lizzo accepts Outstanding Competition Program for "Lizzo's ...
Scottie Andrew, CNN

Lizzo played James Madison’s 200-year-old crystal flute at her Washington, DC concert

Ever the pioneeer, Lizzo crossed off another first during the Washington, DC stop of her tour -- playing an approximately 200-year-old crystal flute that belonged to a former US president.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Clarence Williams III, ‘The Mod Squad’s’ Linc, Dies At 81