How did Clarence Williams III die? 'The Mod Squad' star, 81, 'left a solid legacy', say fans

Clarence Williams III's career began on stage with the play ‘Dark of the Moo’ in 1957 and he later became popular for ‘The Mod Squad’ and ‘Purple Rain’

                            How did Clarence Williams III die? 'The Mod Squad' star, 81, 'left a solid legacy', say fans
'Purple Rain' star Clarence Williams III is no more (Mike Windle/Getty Images)

Clarence Williams III, who was considered a Black power icon in the 1960s and '70s, breathed his last on Friday, June 4. He was 81. The unfortunate news was shared by the actor’s management to the publication Variety over the weekend, citing colon cancer as the cause behind his death. Williams is now survived by his sister Sondra Pugh, daughter Jamey Phillips, niece Suyin Shaw, grandnephews Elliot Shaw and Ese Shaw and grandniece Azaria Verdin.

Williams was best known for portraying Linc Hayes on the hippie cop show ‘The Mod Squad’ and Prince’s father in the movie ‘Purple Rain’. His other notable roles came in projects such as ‘52 Pick-Up’, ‘Tales from the Hood’, ‘Half Baked’ and ‘Reindeer Games’, and Season 2 of ‘Twin Peaks’. Unfortunately, a few other celebrities such as 'Wahlburgers' fame Henry ‘Nacho’ Laun, ‘School of Rock’ actor Kevin Clark, ‘Love Boat’ actor Gavin McLeod and ‘The Wire’ actor Robert Hogan also lost their lives recently.

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Promotional studio portrait of actors Clarence Williams III, Michael Cole, Peggy Lipton for the television series, 'The Mod Squad,' c. 1968 (ABC/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

How did Clarence Williams III die?

The management team of Williams did not reveal a lot of details about the actor’s death except that he died from colon cancer. It is also believed that his family or his team never made the news of him suffering from cancer public. Williams, whose career was most active in the 1960s and '70s, was also one of the first Black actors to lead a TV series with ‘The Mob Squad’ that ran from 1968 to 1973.  

Williams was born on August 21, 1939, and was raised by his grandparents. The late actor’s career began on the stage with the play called ‘Dark of the Moo’ in 1957. He also starred opposite Geraldine Page in ‘The Great Outdoors’ on Broadway. Continuing his love for acting on stage, he also scored a nomination for the coveted Tony Award in 1965 for best-featured actor in the drama called ‘Slow Dance on the Killing Ground’. Speaking of movies, Williams’ other credits include ‘The General’s Daughter’, ‘Sugar Hill’, ‘Deep Cover’, ‘Hoodlum’ and ‘The Brave’. He recently appeared in Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’ in 2013.

Clarence Williams III attends the Los Angeles premiere of 'Lee Daniels' The Butler' at Regal Cinemas LA Live on August 12, 2013 in Los Angeles, California (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

‘Your legacy is beyond secured’

As soon as the devastating news of Williams' death hit the internet, a lot of social media users rushed to Twitter to pay their condolences. One individual who had attended the matinee of ‘Slow Dance on the Killing Ground’ back in the day tweeted, “In 1965 my HS drama class attended a matinee of Slow Dance on the Killing Ground. Afterwards, as the bus pulled away from the Plymouth Theater, we spotted the young actor who had electrified us for 2 1/2 hours, walking down the street,” adding, “Clarence Williams III was terrific on the stage, and even cooler out in the world that day. It made the whole idea of being a stage actor more magical somehow. RIP.”
Another user shared, “So sad to hear about Clarence Williams III passing on Friday. I loved him on The Mod Squad when I was young and enjoyed his role as a professor on The Hallmark Chanel and as Prince’s father in Purple Rain. So talented. Rest In Peace.” One user added, “Who will ever forget Clarence Williams III performance as the tortured soul father of Prince’s The Kid in Purple Rain. RIP King!” The next one posted, “My heart is hurting right now at the passing of another bonified legend. Clarence Williams III was an actor u can depend on to bring the heat in any film or show he was on. Ain't gonna be another like him. Rest in Power, King. Ur legacy is beyond secured.” One concluded, “He always knew the assignment. 100 acting credits on IMDB. RIP to a true legend, Clarence Williams III.” One said, "Was phenomenal in Sugar Hill!! What an actor. Left a solid legacy."

Actors Michael Cole and Clarence Williams III attend the ABC Television Network's 50th Anniversary Special at the Pantages Theatre on March 16, 2003, in Hollywood, California (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)