Lynne Thigpen

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Lynne Thigpen
Thigpen as Miss Barrett in the 1989 dramatized biographical film Lean On Me.
Born Cherlynne Theresa Thigpen
(1948-12-22)December 22, 1948
Joliet, Illinois, U.S.
Died March 12, 2003(2003-03-12) (aged 54)
Marina del Rey, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Cerebral Hemorrhage
Resting place
Elmhurst Cemetery,
(Joliet, Illinois)
Other names Lynne Richmond
Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Occupation Actress
Years active 1972-2003
Awards 1992 Obie Award – (Boesman and Lena)
1997 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play – (An American Daughter)
1999 Obie Award – (Jar the Floor)

Cherlynne Theresa "Lynne" Thigpen (December 22, 1948 – March 12, 2003) was an American actress, best known for her role as "The Chief" in the various Carmen Sandiego television series from 1991-1997.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Joliet, Illinois, Thigpen obtained a degree in teaching. She taught English in high school briefly while studying theatre and dance at the University of Illinois. Thigpen moved to New York City in 1971 to begin her career as a stage actress. She had a long and prolific theater career, and appeared in numerous musicals including Godspell, The Night That Made America Famous, The Magic Show, Working, Tintypes and An American Daughter (for which she won her Tony Award for her portrayal of Dr. Judith Kaufman in 1997). Her first feature film role was Lynne in Godspell (1973), co-starring opposite Victor Garber and David Haskell. She appeared notably as the omniscient Radio DJ in The Warriors, and as Leonna Barrett, the mother of an expelled student in Lean on Me, a story of famous American high school principal Joe Louis Clark. She had a role in Shaft, alongside Samuel L. Jackson, as Carla Howard, the murder victim's mother. She also played the Second President of the World Congress in Bicentennial Man (1999). Her last film was Anger Management (2003), starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson (which was released only a month following her death and paid tribute to her in the end credits).

Thigpen was perhaps best known for playing Luna in the television show, Bear in the Big Blue House as well as "The Chief" of the ACME Detective Agency in the long-running PBS children's geography game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, which involves both education and comedy, and, on occasion, musical performance. She remained The Chief in the successor show, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, but of ACME Time Net. She also appeared in many other television series during her career, most notably in a recurring role as Grace Keefer on the ABC daytime drama All My Children and a supporting role as Ella Mae Farmer, a statistics clerk for the Washington, D.C. police department, on the CBS crime drama The District. She guest-starred in episodes of Gimme A Break!, L.A. Law, Law & Order, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Thirtysomething. She appeared in radio skits of the Garrison Keillor program The American Radio Company of the Air.[1] Her voice was also heard on over 20 audio books, primarily works with socially relevant themes.[2]


Thigpen died of a cerebral hemorrhage on March 12, 2003,[3] in her Marina del Rey, California, home. Thigpen had been complaining of headaches during the final days of her life. Drugs and foul play were ruled out by the coroner's autopsy, which found "acute cardiac dysfunction, non-traumatic systemic and spontaneous intraventricular hemorrhage and hemorrhage in the brain." She was entombed next to her parents at Elmhurst Cemetery in her hometown of Joliet, Illinois.

Response and Legacy[edit]

When Thigpen died, the third season finale of The District had a tribute to her character, Ella Mae Farmer. Thigpen's death led to a four-year hiatus of Bear in the Big Blue House.[citation needed] A planned film version of Bear was also put on hold. Two years after Thigpen's death, Bear Star, Tara Mooney, who played the character Shadow, in an interview with Ray D'Arcy on Today FM stated: "The crew's hearts just weren't in it anymore". Thigpen's friends and family established a non-profit foundation, The Lynne Thigpen - Bobo Lewis Foundation, to help young actors and actresses learn how to survive and succeed in New York theater and to mentor the next generation of Broadway stars. Thigpen was posthumously nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for voicing Luna the moon in Bear in the Big Blue House, but lost to Jeff Corwin. Her final film, Anger Management, was dedicated in her memory. Also, an elementary school in her hometown was named in her honor.



  • Godspell: 1973
  • The Night That Made America Famous: 1975
  • The Magic Show: 1976
  • Working
  • But Never Jam Today 1979
  • Tintypes: 1980-81
  • August Wilson's Fences: 1988
  • Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena: Obie award, 1992
  • A Month of Sundays
  • Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter:1996-7 (Tony Award 1997)
  • Jar the Floor






Awards and honors[edit]

Awards won
  • 1992 Obie AwardBoesman and Lena
  • 1997 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play – An American Daughter
  • 2000 Obie AwardJar the Floor
Awards nominated
  • Lynne Thigpen Elementary School, Joliet, IL[4]


  1. ^ "A Prairie Home Companion Timeline". 1974-07-06. Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  2. ^ "Muppet Central Articles - Tributes: Lynne Thigpen". 2003-03-13. Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  3. ^ The Associated Press (2003-03-14). "Lynne Thigpen, Actress in CBS's 'District,' Dies at 54". New York Times ( Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  4. ^ "Lynne Thigpen School". Retrieved 2013-01-29. 

External links[edit]