Rollins in Ragtime, 1981
Howard Ellsworth Rollins Jr.
October 17, 1950
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Died||December 8, 1996 (aged 46)|
New York City, U.S.
|Resting place||Woodlawn Cemetery, Baltimore|
|Alma mater||Towson State University|
Howard Ellsworth Rollins Jr. (October 17, 1950 – December 8, 1996) was an American stage, film and television actor. Howard Rollins was best known for his role as Andrew Young in 1978's King, George Haley in the 1979 miniseries Roots: The Next Generations, Coalhouse Walker Jr. in the 1981 film Ragtime, Captain Davenport in the 1984 film A Soldier's Story, and as Virgil Tibbs on the TV crime drama In the Heat of the Night.
Rollins was the youngest of four children born to Ruth and Howard Ellsworth Rollins Sr. in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother was a domestic worker while his father was a steelworker. Rollins Sr. died in 1980. Upon his high school graduation, Rollins studied theater at Towson University.
In 1970, Rollins left college early to play the role of "Slick" in the PBS soap opera Our Street. In 1974, he moved to New York City where he went on to appear in the Broadway productions of We Interrupt This Program..., in 1975, The Mighty Gents in 1978, and G. R. Point in 1979. He also appeared in the miniseries King and Roots: The Next Generations.
In 1981, Rollins made his film debut in the Dino De Laurentiis/Miloš Forman motion picture, Ragtime. His performance in the film earned him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor, as well as Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture and New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture. The following year, he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his role on Another World. In 1984, Rollins starred in director Norman Jewison's film, A Soldier's Story which led to his role as Virgil Tibbs on In the Heat of the Night, the television series based on Jewison's acclaimed 1967 film of the same name.
In the Heat of the Night began airing on NBC in 1988. During the show's run, Rollins struggled with an addiction to drugs and alcohol. He was arrested four times for drug- and alcohol-related crimes and spent one month in jail for reckless driving and driving under the influence. Due to his ongoing personal and legal issues, Rollins was let go from the series at the end of Season 6. Rollins, however, would return for several guest appearances throughout the seventh season of the show in 1993-1994.
After being let go from In the Heat of the Night, Rollins got sober and worked on rebuilding his career and reputation. In 1995, he appeared in a guest role on New York Undercover, followed by a role in the theatrical film, Drunks. In 1996, he appeared in a guest role on Remember WENN. His final acting role was in the 1996 PBS television movie Harambee!.
In 1988, Rollins was arrested and pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in Louisiana. In 1992 and 1993, he was arrested on three separate occasions for driving under the influence. In 1994, he served a month in jail for reckless driving and driving under the influence. Because of continued legal problems, Rollins was ultimately dropped from In the Heat of the Night. After attending drug rehab, he returned to In the Heat of the Night as a guest star.
On December 8, 1996, Rollins died at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City of complications from AIDS-related lymphoma. He had been diagnosed with the disease approximately six weeks earlier. His funeral was held on December 13 in Baltimore.
|1981||Ragtime||Coalhouse Walker Jr.||Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year - Actor
Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor (4th place)
|1984||A Soldier's Story||Captain Davenport|
|1984||The House of God||Chuck Johnston|
|1990||On the Block||Clay Beasley|
|1978||The Trial of the Moke||Television movie|
Credited as Howard Rollins
|1979||Roots: The Next Generations||George Haley||Miniseries|
|1979||My Old Man||Doctor||Television movie|
|1982||The Neighborhood||Allen Campbell||Television movie|
|1982||The Member of the Wedding||Honey Brown||Television movie|
|1982||Another World||Ed Harding||Unknown episodes|
Nominated - Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
|1983||For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story||Medgar Evers||Television movie|
Winner - NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
|1983||Moving Right Along||Unknown episodes|
|1984||House of Dies Drear||Walter Small||Television movie|
|1984||A Doctor's Story||Dr. Zack Williams||Television movie|
|1984||He's Fired, She's Hired||Raoul||Television movie|
|1985||Wildside||Bannister Sparks||6 episodes|
|1986||The Boy King||Martin Luther King Sr.||Television movie|
|1986||The Children of Times Square||Otis Travis||Television movie|
|1986||Johnnie Mae Gibson: FBI||T.C. Russell||Television movie|
|1988-1995||In the Heat of the Night||Chief of Detectives Virgil Tibbs||121 episodes, credited as Howard Rollins|
Winner - NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, 1989
|1992||With Murder in Mind||Samuel Carver||Television movie|
|1995||New York Undercover||Reverend Hundley||Episode: "The Smoking Section"|
|1996||Remember WENN||George Smith||Episode: "The Emperor Smith"|
|1996||Harambee!||Chimbuko||Television movie, (final film role)|
- Eady, Brenda (1984-10-01). "Howard Rollins' Stalled Career Marches on with a Soldier's Story". People. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
- Cerio, Gregory (December 23, 1996). "Requiem for Mister Tibbs". people.com. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
- Blumenthal, Ralph (1996-12-10). "Howard Rollins Is Dead at 50 Star in TV's 'Heat of the Night'". New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
- "Actor Howard Rollins, 46, succumbs in New York". Jet. December 23, 1996. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
- "'Heat of the Night' actor dies". The Robesonian. December 10, 1996. p. 5A. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
- "Black Celebrities We've Lost to AIDS". BET. September 2008. p. 8. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
- "Howard Rollins Unveiling at Senator Theater". National Great Blacks In Wax Museum. Retrieved October 8, 2007.