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Clarence Williams III
Clarence Williams III Mod Squad 1971.JPG
Williams in 1971
Born (1939-08-21)August 21, 1939
Died June 4, 2021(2021-06-04) (aged 81)
Resting place St Charles Cemetery, East Farmingdale, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1960–2018
(m. 1967; div. 1984)

Clarence Williams III (August 21, 1939 – June 4, 2021) was an American actor. He played the character of Linc Hayes in the police television series The Mod Squad from 1968 to 1973. He also appeared in films such as Purple Rain, 52 Pick-Up, Tales from the Hood, Hoodlum, Half Baked, Life, American Gangster and Reindeer Games.


Early life

Born in New York City, Williams was the son of a professional musician, Clarence "Clay" Williams Jr., and grandson of jazz and blues composer/pianist Clarence Williams and his singer-actress wife, Eva Taylor. Raised by his paternal grandmother, he became interested in acting after accidentally walking onto a stage at a theater below a Harlem YMCA.


Williams began pursuing an acting career after spending two years as a paratrooper in C Company, 506th Infantry, of the 101st Airborne Division. He first appeared on Broadway in The Long Dream (1960). Continuing his work on stage, he appeared in Walk in Darkness (1963), Sarah and the Sax (1964), Doubletalk (1964), and King John. His breakout theatrical role was in William Hanley's Slow Dance on the Killing Ground, for which he received a Tony Award nomination. The New York Times drama critic Howard Taubman wrote of his performance, "Mr. Williams glides like a dancer, giving his long, fraudulently airy speeches the inner rhythms of fear and showing the nakedness of terror when he ceases to pretend." He also served as artist-in-residence at Brandeis University in 1966.

Williams' breakout television role was as undercover cop Linc Hayes on the popular ABC counterculture police television series The Mod Squad (1968), along with fellow relative unknowns Michael Cole and Peggy Lipton. Since the series ended in 1973, he worked in a variety of genres on stage and screen, from comedy (I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Half-Baked) to sci-fi (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and drama (Purple Rain).

Spanning over forty years, his career included the role of Prince's tormented father, who was also a musician, in Purple Rain (1984), A guest appearance in Miami Vice (1985), a recurring role in the surreal TV series Twin Peaks (1990), a good cop in Deep Cover (1992), a rioter in the mini-series Against the Wall (1994), and Wesley Snipes' chemically dependent father in Sugar Hill (1993). His other roles on television include Hill Street Blues, the Canadian cult classic The Littlest Hobo, Miami Vice, The Highwayman, Burn Notice, Everybody Hates Chris, Justified, and Law & Order. He can be seen in films such as 52 Pick-Up, Life, The Cool World, Deep Cover, Tales from the Hood, Half-Baked, King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis, Hoodlum, Frogs for Snakes, Starstruck, The General's Daughter, Reindeer Games, Impostor, and as the early jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton in The Legend of 1900. He also played a supporting role as George Wallace's fictional African-American butler and caretaker in the 1997 TNT film George Wallace.

From 2003 to 2007, Williams had a recurring role as Philby Cross in the Mystery Woman film series on the Hallmark Channel. He appeared in all but the first of the eleven films alongside Kellie Martin (J.E. Freeman played Philby in the Mystery Woman first film). In the seventh (Mystery Woman: At First Sight) film, he reunited with his Mod Squad co-star Michael Cole. He played Bumpy Johnson in the film American Gangster. From 2005 to 2007 Williams had another recurring role as the voice of Councilor Andam on the Disney animated series American Dragon: Jake Long.


Williams died in Los Angeles on June 4, 2021, from colon cancer at the age of 81. He is buried in St Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale, New York.

Personal life

Gloria Foster and Clarence Williams Mod Squad 1970
Foster and Williams in The Mod Squad episode in 1970. Foster guest-starred as a blind friend of Linc Hayes.

Williams married the actress Gloria Foster in 1967. They worked together on The Mod Squad; Foster made two guest appearances. The two also acted in a 1964 film The Cool World. In 1984 they filed for divorce, but remained friends. They had no children. Williams announced Foster's death in 2001.

Selected filmography


Year Film Role Notes
1963 The Cool World Blood
1984 Purple Rain Father
1986 52 Pick-Up Bobby Shy
1988 I'm Gonna Git You Sucka Kalinga
1991 My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys Virgil
1992 Deep Cover Detective Taft
1994 Sugar Hill Arthur Romello "A.R." Skuggs
1995 Tales from the Hood Mr. Simms
1997 Hoodlum "Bub" Hewlett
1998 The Legend of 1900 "Jelly Roll" Morton
1998 Half Baked Samson Simpson
1998 Starstruck Jarry Wallace
1999 Life Winston Hancock
1999 The General’s Daughter Colonel George Fowler
2000 Reindeer Games "Merlin"
2001 Blue Hill Avenue Benny
2003 The Extreme Team Zachary
2005 Constellation Forest Boxer
2007 The Blue Hour Ridley
2007 American Gangster Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson Uncredited
2009 The Way of War Mac
2009 A Day in the Life Sam
2013 The Butler Maynard
2018 American Nightmares Roscoe Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1968–1973 The Mod Squad Lincoln "Linc" Hayes Main role, 123 episodes
1979 The Littlest Hobo David Episode: "Boy on Wheels"
1983 Hill Street Blues Lester Minley Episode: "Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow"
1984 T J Hooker Martin Episode: “Deadlock”
1985 Miami Vice Maximilian "Legba" Ildefonse Episode: "Tale of the Goat"
1985 The Cosby Show Mr. Thornhill Episode: "Cliff's Birthday"
1990 Twin Peaks FBI Agent Roger Hardy Episodes 2.10, 2.11
1992 Tales from the Crypt Security Guard Episode: "Maniac at Large" Season 4, Episode 10
1996 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Omet'iklan Episode: "To the Death"
2000 Law & Order Latiff Miller Episode: "Burn, Baby, Burn"
2003 Fastlane Mr. Hayes Episodes: "Overkill", "Dosed"
2005–2007 American Dragon: Jake Long Councilor Andam Recurring voice role
2005 Everybody Hates Chris Tate Episode: "Everybody Hates Basketball"
2005 Mystery Woman: Mystery Weekend Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2005 Mystery Woman: Snapshot Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2005 Mystery Woman: Sing Me A Murder Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2005 Mystery Woman: Vision of a Murder Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2005 Mystery Woman: Game Time Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2006 Mystery Woman: At First Sight Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2006 Mystery Woman: Wild West Mystery Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2006 Mystery Woman: Oh Baby Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2006 Mystery Woman: Redemption Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2007 Mystery Woman: In the Shadows Philby Television film (Hallmark)
2009 Burn Notice Jean Pierre's Father Episode "Truth and Reconciliation"
2010 Justified Mr. Jones Episode: "Long in the Tooth"
2010 Memphis Beat Leroy Hitch Episode: "I Shall Not Be Moved"
2015 Empire Huey Jarvis Episode: "True Love Never"

See also

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