Lynne Thigpen

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Lynne Thigpen
Thigpen as Miss Barrett in the 1989 dramatized biographical film Lean On Me
BornCherlynne Theresa Thigpen
(1948-12-22)December 22, 1948
Joliet, Illinois
DiedMarch 12, 2003(2003-03-12) (aged 54)
Marina del Rey, California
Cause of deathCerebral hemorrhage
Resting placeElmhurst Cemetery, Joliet, Illinois
Other namesLynne Richmond
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Years active1971–2003
TelevisionThe Chief in Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Luna in Bear in the Big Blue House
Awards1992 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" of ACME in the various Carmen Sandiego television series and computer games from 1991 to 1997. For her varied television work, Thigpen was nominated for six Daytime Emmy Awards; she won a Tony Award in 1997 for portraying Dr. Judith Kaufman in An American Daughter.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Joliet, Illinois, Thigpen obtained a degree in teaching. She taught high school English briefly while studying theatre and dance at the University of Illinois.[citation needed]



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 as Lynne in Godspell (1973), co-starring opposite Victor Garber and David Haskell. Thigpen also portrayed a radio DJ (shown only from the nose down) in Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979), and Leonna Barrett, the mother of an expelled student, in Lean on Me (1989), the story of American high school principal Joe Louis Clark. She had a role in the remake of Shaft (2000) as the mother of a murder victim, and played the Second President of the World Congress in Bicentennial Man (1999). Her last film, Anger Management (2003), starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson, was released only a month after her death and paid tribute to her in the end credits.


Thigpen was perhaps best known to television audiences for playing "The Chief" in the award-winning PBS children's geography game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, which involved education, humor, and an occasional musical performance. She reprised the role The Chief in the successor show, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?. She also played Luna in the television show, Bear in the Big Blue House, and 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 crime analyst for the Washington, D.C. police department, on the CBS crime drama The District.[1] 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, and was a regular cast member on the short-lived NBC sketch comedy series The News Is the News.

Audio productions[edit]

She appeared in radio skits of the Garrison Keillor program The American Radio Company of the Air.[2] Her voice was also heard on over 20 audio books, primarily works with socially relevant themes.[3]


Thigpen died of a cerebral hemorrhage on March 12, 2003,[4] in her Marina del Rey, California, home after complaining of headaches for several days. She was 54 years old. 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 Joliet, Illinois.

Response and legacy[edit]

When Thigpen died, the Season 3 finale of The District had a tribute to her character Ella Mae Farmer.[citation needed]

Thigpen's death also led to a three-year hiatus of Bear in the Big Blue House,[citation needed] and a planned film version of Bear was put on hold. Two years after Thigpen's death, Bear star, Tara Mooney, who played the character Shadow, stated in an interview with Ray D'Arcy on Today FM, "The crew's hearts just weren't in it anymore".[citation needed]

Thigpen was posthumously nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for voicing Luna the moon in Bear in the Big Blue House, but she lost to Jeff Corwin for his wildlife reality series The Jeff Corwin Experience.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Her final film, Anger Management (2003), was dedicated to her memory.

Also, Lynne Thigpen Elementary School in her hometown (Joliet, IL) was named in her honor.[5]








Awards and honors[edit]

  • Lynne Thigpen Elementary School, Joliet, IL[5]


  1. ^ "Actress Lynne Thigpen, 54, Dies In Los Angeles", Jet, March 31, 2005, p. 53.
  2. ^ "A Prairie Home Companion Timeline". July 6, 1974. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  3. ^ "Muppet Central Articles - Tributes: Lynne Thigpen". March 13, 2003. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  4. ^ The Associated Press (March 14, 2003). "Lynne Thigpen, Actress in CBS's 'District,' Dies at 54". New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Lynne Thigpen School". Retrieved January 29, 2013.

External links[edit]