Raymond St. Jacques

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Raymond St. Jacques
Raymond St, Jacques Rawhide 1965.jpg
St. Jacques as Simon Blake in 1965
James Arthur Johnson

(1930-03-01)March 1, 1930
DiedAugust 27, 1990(1990-08-27) (aged 60)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
EducationHillhouse High School
Alma materYale University
OccupationActor, director, producer

Raymond St. Jacques (March 1, 1930 – August 27, 1990) was an American actor, director and producer. He was the first African American actor to appear in a regular role on a western series, playing Simon Blake on Rawhide.

Early years[edit]

St. Jacques (right) as Simon Blake with John Ireland, 1965

St. Jacques was born James Arthur Johnson in Hartford, Connecticut. He had a sister, Barbara Ann. Shortly after his birth, his parents divorced; he moved with his mother and sister to New Haven, Connecticut.[1] Johnson's mother Vivienne later worked as a medical technician at Yale University. After graduating from Hillhouse High School, Johnson attended Yale, where he studied drama and psychology.[1]

Upon graduation, he worked as an assistant director, actor and fencing instructor for the American Shakespearean Festival in New Haven. He staged all of the fencing scenes and duels while at the company and would continue to practice fencing for the rest of his life.[2]

After moving to New York City, Johnson continued to pursue acting and studied at the Actors Studio.[3] To support himself, he worked as a model, dishwasher and a busboy.[1] His first professional acting role was in the off-Broadway play High Name Today.[2] He was cast in the role of "Judge" in the off-Broadway performance of Jean Genet's play The Blacks at St. Mark's Playhouse in 1960.


After appearing in bit parts on television in the early 1960s, St. Jacques made his film debut in a small part in the 1964 film Black Like Me.[4] He followed with a role in The Pawnbroker later that year. He appeared in supporting roles in [[The Comedians (1967) and The Green Berets (1968).

His best-known film roles were that of Coffin Ed in the blaxploitation classics Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) (adapted from crime novels by Chester Himes) and Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972). In the early 1970s, St. Jacques began teaching fencing and acting at the Mafundi Institute in Watts, Los Angeles. In 1973, he produced, directed, and starred in the crime film Book of Numbers.[2]

During the 1960s, St. Jacques also guest starred on numerous television shows including East Side/West Side, Daktari, The Virginian, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. In 1965, he was cast as "Simon Blake" in the Western series Rawhide, the first African-American actor to ever be cast as a regular on a prime time Western series. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, St. Jacques continued with roles on stage, film and television. He became known as "The Man of a Thousand Faces" due to the varied parts he played throughout his career.[4]

In 1976, St. Jacques starred as Othello in the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre production of the play of the same name. He remained active in stage work throughout his career, touring in productions of Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, A Raisin in the Sun, and the stage adaptation of The Man with the Golden Arm.[5] From 1988 to 1989, St. Jacques had a two-year stint as Judge Clayton C. Thomas on the syndicated TV show Superior Court. In 1989, he played abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Edward Zwick's Glory.[4] His final film role was in the 1991 sci fi film Timebomb released after his death.

Personal life[edit]

St. Jacques was a lifelong bachelor.[6] In August 1969, St. Jacques granted an interview to columnist Earl Wilson and told Wilson of his plans to adopt two African American boys who were 6 and 7 years old.[7] The adoption apparently never happened but, by the early 1970s, St. Jacques claimed to have two older sons, Raymond, Jr and Sterling. In a 1973 interview, St. Jacques claimed that Raymond, Jr was living in Boston.[2] In May 1972, Sterling, then reported to be 22 years old, made news after four men attempted to rob St. Jacques' Bel Air home. Sterling was the only person home at the time (St. Jacques was in Dallas at the time) and fled after calling police. The four men were apprehended after their getaway car stalled in St. Jacques' driveway.[8] Sterling went on to appear in St. Jacques' 1973 film Book of Numbers.[2] In the mid to late 1970s, Sterling became known as a high fashion model (he was briefly engaged to fellow model Pat Cleveland),[9] dancer and a frequent New York City nightclub and society fixture.[10] In her 2016 memoir Walking with Muses, Sterling’s ex-fiancée Pat Cleveland stated that their engagement came to an end because Sterling was gay. Sometime in the early 1980s, he moved to Europe where he found moderate success as an Italo disco singer. Sterling St Jacques reportedly died of complications of AIDS in 1984 (his death has never been officially confirmed and his true fate remains unknown).[11] However, in a 1988 interview with the Chicago Tribune, St. Jacques still claimed to have two sons and said Sterling was appearing on a television show in Düsseldorf.[12]

The adoption of Raymond, Jr. and Sterling was apparently never official. In his will, St. Jacques claimed that he had no children and named only Sterling, whom he identified as his nephew, in his will. St. Jacques bequeathed Sterling $1 from his $750,000 estate.[6]


St. Jacques frequently spoke of the prejudices he and other African American actors faced in being cast in non-stereotypical, thoughtful roles. He later worked to help African Americans find work behind the camera.[4] In 1977 he publicly criticised the lack of minority actors in Star Wars (which he acknowledged having seen five times) and other science fiction films.[13][14] St. Jacques was also an activist for African American civil rights. In 1985, he and other protestors were arrested during an anti-apartheid demonstration outside of the South African embassy in Washington, D.C.[15]


On August 27, 1990, St. Jacques died of lymphoma at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.[5][4] His funeral was held on August 31 at The Church of the Recessional at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, after which he was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.[16]


Year Title Role Notes
1964 Black Like Me Burial Insurance Salesman
1964 The Pawnbroker Tangee
1965 Mister Moses Ubi
1966 Mister Buddwing Hank
1967 The Comedians Captain Concasseur
1968 Madigan Dr. Taylor
1968 The Green Berets Sgt. Doc McGee
1968 If He Hollers, Let Him Go! James Lake
1968 Uptight B.G.
1969 Change of Mind David Rowe
1970 Cotton Comes to Harlem Coffin Ed Johnson
1972 Cool Breeze Bill Mercer
1972 The Final Comedown Imir
1972 Come Back, Charleston Blue Coffin Ed Johnson
1973 Book of Numbers Blueboy Harris
1974 Lost in the Stars John Kumalo
1977 The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover Martin Luther King
1977 Roots The drummer TV Mini-Series, Episode: "Part IV"
1977 The Baron
1978 Born Again Jimmy Newsom
1980 Cuba Crossing Mr. Bell
1984 The Evil That Men Do Randolph
1987 The Wild Pair Ivory
1988 They Live Street Preacher
1989 Glory Frederick Douglass Uncredited
1991 Voodoo Dawn Claude
1991 Timebomb Det. Sanchez


  1. ^ a b c Flint, Peter B. (August 30, 1990). "Raymond St. Jacques, an Actor Of TV and Films, Is Dead at 60". nytimes.com. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e "AFRO talks to...Director, Producer, Actor 'Book of Numbers' Raymond St. Jacques". Baltimore Afro-American. Baltimore, Maryland. April 10, 1973. p. 14.
  3. ^ 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 Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Actor Raymond St. Jacques Succumbs to Cancer At 60". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 78 (23): 12–14. September 17, 1990. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Raymond St. Jacques; Actor was 60". latimes.com. August 29, 1990. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Late Actor St. Jacques Leaves Estate Valued At $750,000 To Kin, Friends". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 79 (26): 35–36. April 15, 1991. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  7. ^ Wilson, Earl (August 2, 1969). "Bachelor Actor St. Jacques To Adopt 2 Children". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. p. 21. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "Suspects Caught In Stalled Car". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. May 27, 1972. p. 5. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  9. ^ "A Fast Paced Ride With the Jet Set Crowd". Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. 21 (10): 72. August 1977. ISSN 0012-9011.
  10. ^ Scott, Walter (November 28, 1976). "Walter Scott's Personality Parade". Reading Eagle. Reading, Pennsylvania.
  11. ^ Cleveland, Pat; Glennon, Lorraine (2017). Walking with the Muses: A Memoir. Simon and Schuster. p. 316. ISBN 1501108239.
  12. ^ Weaver, Maurice (September 29, 1988). "Raymond St. Jacques Ascends the Bench". chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
  13. ^ St. Jacques, Raymond (July 17, 1977). "The Great White Void". Los Angeles Times. p. R2 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ Monagle, Matthew (December 14, 2015). "The Fight Over Star Wars and Racism in 1977". Film School Rejects. Archived from the original on September 29, 2017.
  15. ^ "Actor Arrested". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 68 (2): 61. March 25, 1985. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  16. ^ "Funeral Rites Set for Raymond St. Jacques". Los Angeles Times. August 31, 1990. Retrieved March 25, 2016.

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