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Paul Winfield

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Paul Winfield
Winfield in The High Chaparral (1969)
Paul Edward Winfield

(1939-05-22)May 22, 1939
DiedMarch 7, 2004(2004-03-07) (aged 64)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
Other namesPaul E. Winfield
Alma mater
Years active1965–2004
PartnerCharles Gillan Jr. (1972–2002; Gillan's death)

Paul Edward Winfield (May 22, 1939 – March 7, 2004) was an American actor. He was known for his portrayal of a Louisiana sharecropper who struggles to support his family during the Great Depression in the landmark film Sounder (1972), which earned him an Academy Award nomination. He portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1978 television miniseries King, for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award. Winfield was also known for his roles in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Terminator, L.A. Law, and 24 episodes of the sitcom 227. He received four Emmy nominations overall, winning in 1995 for his 1994 guest role in Picket Fences.

Early years[edit]

Winfield was the son of Lois Beatrice Edwards, a single mother who was a union organizer in the garment industry. Although published obituaries stated he was born in Los Angeles on May 22, 1941,[1][2] some sources indicate he was born May 22, 1939, in Dallas, Texas.[a] His stepfather from the age of eight was Clarence Winfield, a city trash collector and construction worker.[4][5] He graduated from Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. From there, he attended the University of Portland, 1957–59; Stanford University, 1959; Los Angeles City College, 1959–63; University of California, Los Angeles, 1962–64; University of Hawaii, 1965 and the University of California, Santa Barbara, 1970–71, but did not earn a degree from any of them.[6]


A lifetime member of The Actors Studio,[7] Winfield carved out a diverse career in film, television, theater and voiceovers by taking groundbreaking roles at a time when black actors were rarely even cast. He first appeared in the 1965 Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Runaway Racer," as Mitch, a race car mechanic. His first major feature film role was in the 1969 film The Lost Man starring Sidney Poitier. Winfield first became well known to television audiences when he appeared for several years opposite Diahann Carroll on the groundbreaking television series Julia. Filmed during a high point of racial tensions in the United States, the show was unique in featuring a black female as the central character. He also starred as Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1978 miniseries King.

In 1973, Winfield was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1972 film Sounder,[8] and his co-star in that film, Cicely Tyson, was nominated for Best Actress. Prior to their nominations and Diana Ross's for Lady Sings the Blues the same year, only three other black Americans – Dorothy Dandridge, Sidney Poitier and James Earl Jones – had ever been nominated for a leading role. He also appeared, in a different role, in the 2003 Disney-produced television remake of Sounder, which was directed by Kevin Hooks, his co-star from the original. Winfield played the part of "Jim the Slave" in Huckleberry Finn (1974) which was a musical based on the novel by Mark Twain. Winfield would recall late in his career that as a young actor he had played one of the two leads in Of Mice and Men in local repertory, made up in whiteface, since a black actor playing it would have been unthinkable. Winfield also starred in several miniseries, including Scarlett, and two based on the works of novelist Alex Haley: Roots: The Next Generations and Queen: The Story of an American Family.

Winfield in a 1972 production of The Threepenny Opera

Winfield gained a new segment of fans for his brief but memorable roles in several science fiction television series and films. He portrayed Starfleet starship Captain Terrell, an unwilling minion of the villain Khan, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Lieutenant Ed Traxler, a friendly but crusty cop partnered with Lance Henriksen in The Terminator. In 1996, he was part of the 'name' ensemble cast in Tim Burton's comic homage to 1950s science fiction Mars Attacks!, playing the complacently self-satisfied Lt. General Casey. On the small screen he appeared as Dathon, an alien captain who communicates in allegories, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Darmok".[9] He also appeared in the second season Babylon 5 episode "Gropos" as General Richard Franklin, the father of regular character Dr. Stephen Franklin, and on the fairy tale sitcom The Charmings as The Evil Queen's wise-cracking Magic Mirror. He also portrayed the character of Julian Barlow in the television series 227 during its last two seasons.

Winfield also took on roles as homosexual characters in the films Mike's Murder in 1984 and the 1998 film Relax...It's Just Sex. He found success off-camera due to his unique voice. He provided voices on the cartoons Spider-Man, The Magic School Bus, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Gargoyles, K10C, and The Simpsons, on the latter voicing the Don King parody Lucius Sweet. In his voiceover career, he is perhaps best known as the narrator for the A&E true crime series City Confidential, a role he began in 1998 and continued until his death in 2004. Throughout his career, Winfield frequently managed to perform in the theater. His only Broadway production, Checkmates, in 1988, co-starring Ruby Dee, was also the Broadway debut of Denzel Washington. He also appeared in productions at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. Winfield was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performances in King and Roots: The Next Generations. He won an Emmy Award in 1995, for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for his appearance as Judge Harold Nance in an episode of the CBS drama Picket Fences.

Personal life and death[edit]

Winfield was gay, but remained discreet about it in the public eye. Prior to realizing his sexuality, he had a relationship with his Sounder co-star Cicely Tyson for 18 months.[10] His partner of thirty years, architect Charles Gillan Jr., died of bone cancer on March 5, 2002.[11]

Winfield long battled obesity and diabetes. On March 7, 2004, he died of a heart attack at Queen of Angels – Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles.[12] Winfield and Gillan are interred together at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.[13]


Year Title Role Notes
1967 The Perils of Pauline African Servant Uncredited
1967 Who's Minding the Mint? Garbage man Uncredited
1969 The Lost Man Orville Turner
1970 R. P. M. Steve Dempsey
1971 Brother John Henry Birkart
1972 Sounder Nathan Lee Morgan
1972 Trouble Man Chalky Price
1973 Gordon's War Gordon Hudson
1974 Conrack Mad Billy
1974 Huckleberry Finn Jim
1975 Hustle Sergeant Louis Belgrave
1976 High Velocity Watson
1977 Twilight's Last Gleaming Willis Powell
1977 The Greatest Lawyer
1977 Damnation Alley Keegan
1978 A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich Butler
1981 Carbon Copy Bob Garvey
1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Captain Clark Terrell
1982 White Dog Keys
1983 On the Run Harry
1984 Mike's Murder Philip Green
1984 The Terminator Lt. Ed Traxler
1986 Blue City Luther Reynolds
1987 Death Before Dishonor Ambassador
1987 Big Shots Johnnie Red
1988 The Serpent and the Rainbow Lucien Celine
1990 Presumed Innocent Judge Larren Lyttle
1993 Cliffhanger Walter Wright
1993 Dennis the Menace Chief of Police
1994 The Killing Jar Judge Alternative title: Trapped
1995 In the Kingdom of the Blind, the Man with One Eye Is King Papa Joe
1995 In the Flesh [de] William Stone
1996 Original Gangstas Reverend Dorsey Alternative title: Hot City
1996 Mars Attacks! Lt. General Casey
1996 Dead of Night Vernon
1996 The Legend of Gator Face Bob
1997 Strategic Command Rowan
1998 Relax...It's Just Sex Auntie Mahalia
1998 Assignment Berlin [de] Al Spector
1999 Catfish in Black Bean Sauce Harold Williams
2000 Knockout Ron Regent
2001 Vegas, City of Dreams Edgar Jones
2002 Second to Die Detective Grady
Year Title Role Notes
1965 Perry Mason Mitch Episode: "The Case of the Runaway Racer"
1966 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Military M.P. Episode: "The Minus x Affair"
1966 Daktari Roy Kimba 2 episodes
1967 Cowboy in Africa Kabutu 1 episode
1968 Death Valley Days Bart Episode: Bbread on the Desert"
1968 Mission: Impossible Klaus Episode: "Trial by Fury"
1968–1972 Ironside Robert Phillips / Luther Benson 2 episodes
1969 Mannix Walter Lucas Episode: Odds Against Donald Jordan"
1969 The High Chaparral Graham Jessup Episode: "Sea of Enemies"
1969 Room 222 Jim Williams Episode: "Arizona State Loves You"
1969–1970 Julia Paul Cameron 4 episodes
1970 The Young Rebels Pompey Episode: "Unbroken Chains"
1973 The Horror at 37,000 Feet Dr. Enkalla Television film
1974 It's Good to Be Alive Roy Campanella Television film
1977 Green Eyes Lloyd Dubeck Television film
1978 King Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Miniseries
1979 Backstairs at the White House Emmett Rogers Sr. Miniseries
1979 Roots: The Next Generations Dr. Horace Huguley Episode #1.5
1980 Angel City Cy Television film
1981 The Sophisticated Gents Richard "Bubbles" Wiggins Television film
1982 Dreams Don't Die Officer Charles "Charlie" Banks Television film
1982 The Blue and the Gray Jonathan Henry Miniseries
1983 For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story Sampson Television film
1984 The Fall Guy Bert Perkins Episode: "Old Heroes Never Die"
1985 Go Tell It on the Mountain Gabriel Grimes Television film
1985 Murder, She Wrote Det. Lieutenant Starkey Episode: "Tough Guys Don't Die"
1986 Under Siege Andrew Simon Television film
1987 Mighty Pawns Mr. Wright Television film
1987–1988 The Charmings The Magic Mirror 19 episodes
1988–1990 227 Julian C. Barlow 24 episodes
1989 The Women of Brewster Place Sam Michael Miniseries
1989 Wiseguy Isaac Twine 6 episodes
1990 L.A. Law Derron Holloway 4 episodes
1991 Family Matters Jimmy Baines Episode: "Finding the Words"
1991 Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Dathon Episode: "Darmok"
1991 The Wish That Changed Christmas Mr. Smith Voice, Television film
1993 Batman: The Animated Series Earl Cooper Voice, episode: "The Mechanic"[14]
1993 Irresistible Force Commander Toole Television film
1994 Scarlett Big Sam Miniseries
1994 Picket Fences Judge Harold Nance 2 episodes
1995 Tyson Don King Television film
1995 Babylon 5 General Richard Franklin Episode: "GROPOS"
1995 White Dwarf Dr. Akada Television film
1995–1996 Gargoyles Jeffrey Robbins Voice, 3 episodes[14]
1995–2003 Touched by an Angel Sam 12 episodes
1996 Second Noah Ramses Episode: "Ghost Story"
1996–1997 The Magic School Bus Mr. Ruhle Voice, 4 episodes[14]
1996–1998 The Simpsons Lucius Sweet Voice, 2 episodes
1997 Spider-Man Omar Mosely / Black Marvel Voice, 3 episodes[14]
1998 Walker, Texas Ranger Pastor Roscoe Jones Episode: "The Soul of Winter"
1999–2000 Batman Beyond Sam Young Voice, 3 episodes[14]
1999–2004 City Confidential Narrator 94 episodes
1999 Strange Justice Thurgood Marshall Television film
2002 Crossing Jordan Dr. Phillip Sanders Episode: "Four Fathers"
2003 Sounder The Teacher Television film

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1973 Academy Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Sounder Nominated
1978 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special King Nominated
1979 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Special Roots: The Next Generations
(For "Episode V")
1982 NAACP Image Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Dramatic Series or Miniseries or Television Movie The Sophisticated Gents Won
1995 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Picket Fences: Season 3 Won
1997 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special The Legend of Gator Face Nominated
1999 St. Louis International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award
2004 Black Reel Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie or Limited Series Sounder Nominated


  1. ^ His grave marker at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) gives his birth year as 1939, and the Social Security Index gives his place and date of birth as Dallas, Texas, on May 22, 1939.[3]


  1. ^ Martin, Douglas (March 9, 2004). "Paul Winfield Is Dead at 62; Known for Film and TV Roles". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Adenekan, Shola (April 2, 2004). "Obituary: Paul Winfield". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007". Ancestry.com. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  4. ^ "Paul Winfield Biography". Film Reference. Retrieved June 23, 2007.
  5. ^ "Paul Winfield Biography". Yahoo! Movies. 2008. Retrieved May 28, 2008.
  6. ^ Bigelow, Barbara Carlisle, ed. (1992). Paul Winfield. Gale Research. pp. 258–261. ISBN 978-1414435305. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  7. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: Macmillan Inc. p. 280. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  8. ^ Greenspun, Roger (September 25, 1972). "Screen: 'Sounder' Opens: Story of a Negro Boy in Louisiana of 1930's". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 30, 2013. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  9. ^ Bogost, Ian (June 18, 2014). "A "Star Trek" Episode Shows the Next Phase of Human Communication". The Atlantic.
  10. ^ Rapp, Linda (2005). "Winfield, Paul". glbtq encyclopedia. Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Retrieved January 28, 2007.
  11. ^ "Charles Gillan Jr". Variety. April 9, 2002. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  12. ^ King, Susan (March 9, 2004). "Oscar-nominated actor Paul Winfield dies". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  13. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 19, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3d ed.). McFarland. p. 819. ISBN 978-1476625997.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Paul Winfield (visual voices guide)". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved September 23, 2023. A green check mark indicates that a role has been confirmed using a screenshot (or collage of screenshots) of a title's list of voice actors and their respective characters found in its opening and/or closing credits and/or other reliable sources of information.

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