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.