Paul Winfield

Active - 1969 - 2003  |   Born - May 22, 1939 in Los Angeles, California, United States  |   Died - Mar 7, 2004   |   Genres - History, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Before he inaugurated his professional career, African-American actor Paul Winfield received a well-rounded education: He trained at the University of Portland, Los Angeles City College, Stanford, U.C.L.A., the University of Hawaii, and the University of Santa Barbara. After stage work, Winfield received his first major Hollywood break as Paul Cameron on the TV sitcom Julia (1968-1971). In films from 1969, he received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of a fiercely proud sharecropper in Sounder (1972). Back on the small screen, he earned Emmy nominations for his interpretation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1978 miniseries King and his work as Dr. Huguley in 1979's Roots: The Next Generation. An indispensable purveyor of authoritative roles, he has played several judges, winning a 1994 Emmy for his performance in this capacity on TV's Picket Fences. Paul Winfield has also been seen on a regular basis in three television series, playing Julian C. Barlow in the 1989-1990 episodes of 227, Isaac Tuhle in Wiseguy (1987-1991), and a no-nonsense Magic Mirror (voice only) in the 1987 Cinderella spoof The Charmings. In 2004, not long after playing a small role in a remake of Sounder, Winfield suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 62.

Movie Highlights

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  • Spent much time as a child in segregated movie theaters, and when he saw the movie Home of the Brave (1949), which featured an African American in a lead role, he knew that he wanted to become a performer.
  • Was recognized as Best Actor for three years in high school against several other Southern California drama students; he was offered a scholarship to Yale, but turned it down.
  • Was the third African-American actor, behind Sidney Poitier and James Earl Jones, to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, for his role in Sounder in 1972.
  • Known for his distinctive voice, he lent it to various animated series, such as The Magic School Bus and The Simpsons, and he was the narrator for A&E's series City Confidential until his death in 2004. 
  • Spoke out strongly for civil rights through his lifetime and was recognized for this; he won an NAACP Image Award and was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.