He Played the Coolest Cop, and Prince's Dad

Clarence Williams III dies at 81
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2021 1:38 PM CDT
Mod Squad Star Dies
Clarence Williams III, who starred as Linc Hayes in the TV series "The Mod Squad," appears at an anniversary event for ABC's law enforcement theme shows on Jan. 4, 1978 in Los Angeles. Williams died Friday, June 4, 2021 at his home in Los Angeles after a battle with colon cancer. He was 81.   (AP Photo/Wally Fong, File)

Clarence Williams III, a versatile and intense actor whose work spanned decades, has died at 81. He began his career on stage, per the Hollywood Reporter. But it was his role as Linc, a counterculture kid turned undercover detective, on The Mod Squad that made him a star in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The next generation would recognize him as Prince’s troubled but talented father in Purple Rain. He was a standout in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and hilarious in the blaxploitation sendup I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.

Williams hit the stage after serving as a paratrooper in the US Army, USA Today reports. He transitioned to TV, then the big screen. He is mourned by the stars he worked with and the ones he inspired, too, such as Lenny Kravitz, who tweeted, "When I was a kid growing up in NYC Clarence Williams II was a face on TV that I identified with and that inspired me." Peyton Reed, who worked with Williams on The Love Bug, tweeted that he had thought he "was the epitome of cool. Turns out he was." (More Hollywood stories.)

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