Sidney Poitier: Family's tribute to 'guiding light' after Hollywood legend dies aged 94

7 January 2022, 16:05 | Updated: 8 January 2022, 09:13

Actor Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94
Actor Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The family of Hollywood legend Sidney Poitier, the first black man to win the Oscar for best actor, have paid tribute to their "guiding light" following his death aged 94.

Aside from his talent and activism, the actor was "a man who always put family first," the Poitier family said.

In a statement released by US news outlets, the Poitier family said his death has left "a giant hole in our hearts".

The trailblazing Bahamian-American actor died at the age of 94 surrounded by his family, who say there are "no words" to convey the deep sense of "loss and sadness" they are feeling right now.

"We are so grateful he was able to spend his last day surrounded by his family and friends," they said.

"To us Sidney Poitier was not only a brilliant actor, activist, and a man of incredible grace and moral fortitude, he was also a devoted and loving husband, a supportive and adoring father, and a man who always put family first.

"He is our guiding light who lit up our lives with infinite love and wonder. His smile was healing, his hugs the warmest refuge, and his laughter was infectious.

Sidney Poitier and Robert Redford in the Universal Pictures film, Sneakers
Sidney Poitier and Robert Redford in the Universal Pictures film, Sneakers. Picture: Alamy

"We could always turn to him for wisdom and solace and his absence feels like a giant hole in our family and our hearts.

"Although he is no longer here with us in this realm, his beautiful soul will continue to guide and inspire us."

"He will live on in us, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren-in every belly laugh, every curious inquiry, every act of compassion and kindness.

"His legacy will live on in the world, continuing to inspire not only with his incredible body of work, but even more so with his humanity."

Sir Sidney, one of the last surviving stars from the golden age of Hollywood, was the first black man to win an Oscar, winning best actor in 1964 for his role in Lilies of the Field.

He would have celebrated his 95th birthday on February 20.

He starred in In the Heat of the Night and Blackboard Jungle during a long and celebrated acting career. He was also Bahama's Ambassador to Japan for ten years between 1997 and 2007.

He won the Oscar in 1964 for Lilies in the Field, and delivered acclaimed performances in To Sir, with Love; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night.

Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle
Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle. Picture: Alamy

His family hailed from the Bahamas, but he was actually born in Miami when his family were visiting for a weekend trip.

Sir Sidney wrote an autobiography in 2000 entitled “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography”.

Prime Minister of the Bahamas Philip Brave Davis is expected to pay tribute to the Bahamian legend later today.

Actor Jeffrey Wright, who starred in No Time To Die alongside Daniel Craig, posted: "Sidney Poitier. What a landmark actor. One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man. RIP, Sir. With love."

Whoopi Goldberg wrote: "If you wanted the sky I would write across the sky in letters that would soar a thousand feet high.. To Sir… with Love Sir Sidney Poitier R.I.P. He showed us how to reach for the stars."

He is survived by his wife and six children.

His birth on February 20 1927 in Miami in the US meant he was automatically granted US citizenship.

He grew up in the Bahamas but returned to Miami aged 15, before moving to New York aged 16.

He started acting in the late 1940s, leading to a breakthrough role in No Way Out in 1950.

His filmography includes Blackboard Jungle, Lilies of the Field and In The Heat of The Night.

During his career he was nominated for several Oscars and 10 Golden Globes.

In 2002, Poitier was given an Academy Honorary award in recognition of his lifetime achievements.

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