Duane Jones

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Duane Jones
Duane Jones as Ben in Night of the Living Dead bw.jpg
Jones in Night of the Living Dead
Born Duane L. Jones
(1937-02-02)February 2, 1937
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died July 22, 1988(1988-07-22) (aged 51)
Mineola, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Other names Duane L. Jones
Occupation Actor, director, teacher
Years active 1968–1988

Duane L. Jones (February 2, 1937 – July 22, 1988) was an American actor, best known for his leading role as Ben in the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead.[1][2] He was director of the Maguire Theater at the State University of New York at Old Westbury, and the artistic director of the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art in Manhattan.[3]

He is not to be confused with another actor of the same name, also known as Barron Winchester.


Jones was born on February 2, 1937. His mother was Mildred Gordon Jones and he had a sister, Marva (later Marva Brooks) and a brother, Henry.[3] A graduate of the Sorbonne, he studied acting in New York City.

His role in 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead marked the first time an African-American actor was cast as the star of a horror film. At the time, casting a black man as the hero of a film where all the other characters were white was potentially controversial. While some saw the casting as significant, the director of the film states "Jones simply gave the best audition." He was executive director of the Black Theater Alliance, a federation of theater companies, from 1976-81.[3]

He taught acting styles at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. As executive director of the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art (RACCA), he promoted African-American theater. After leaving the American Academy of Dramatic Arts he taught a select group of students privately in Manhattan, by invitation only. His hand-selected students were of diverse ethnic backgrounds.[citation needed]

He was in a few other films after Night of the Living Dead. He continued as a theater actor and director until his death in 1988.[4] Despite his other film roles, Jones worried that people only recognized him as Ben.[5]


Jones died of cardiopulmonary arrest at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, Long Island, New York on July 22, 1988, aged 51.[3]



Year Film Role Notes
1968 Night of the Living Dead Ben
1973 Ganja and Hess Doctor Hess Green Also released as "Blood Couple"
1982 Losing Ground Duke
1984 Beat Street Robert
1986 Vampires Charles Harmon
1988 Negatives Paul
Fright House Charles Harmon
1989 To Die For Simon Little Posthumously released


  1. ^ J.C. Maçek III (June 15, 2012). "The Zombification Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead". PopMatters. 
  2. ^ "Interview with George Romero". New York Times. March 6, 2010. Retrieved December 23, 2010. Daringly for the time, it featured a black actor, Duane Jones, in the lead, whose casual shooting by an all-white posse in the shocking climax seemed to reflect the rifts violently appearing in late-1960s American society. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Duane L. Jones, 51, Actor and Director of Stage Works, Dies". New York Times. July 28, 1988. Retrieved December 23, 2010. Duane L. Jones, a director and actor, died Friday in Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, L.I. He was 51 years old and lived in Westbury, L.I. Marva Jones Brooks, Mr. Jones's sister and the City Attorney of Atlanta, said death was caused by cardiopulmonary arrest. Mr. Jones was director of the Maguire Theater at the State University College at Old Westbury and artistic director at the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art in Manhattan. 
  4. ^ Fraser, C. Gerald (July 28, 1988). "Duane L. Jones, 51, Actor and Director of Stage Works, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2012. 
  5. ^ Duane Jones interview, Bonus Materials, Night of the Living Dead, Millennium Edition (DVD, Elite Entertainment, 2002).

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