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Actor Sidney Poitier Died Of Heart Failure, Prostate Cancer

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Actor Sidney Poitier died from a combination of heart failure, prostate cancer and Alzheimer's dementia, according to his death certificate made public Tuesday.

Obama Honors Sixteen With Congressional Medal Of Freedom
WASHINGTON - AUGUST 12: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents the Medal of Freedom to Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House August 12, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal, the highest civilian honor in the United States, to 16 recipients during the ceremony. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The groundbreaking actor died at his home in Los Angeles on Jan. 6 at age 94.

According to the death certificate issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Poitier died of cardiopulmonary failure, Alzheimer's dementia and prostate cancer.

Poitier was the first Black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his role in "Lilies of the Field" in 1963 and held that distinction until 2002. He was also the first Black man to kiss a white woman in a movie, which was 1965's "A Patch of Blue." Poitier was also known for his roles as Mark Thackeray in "To Sir With Love," Detective Virgil Tibbs in "The Heat of the Night," and as a socialite's Black fiancé in "Guess Who's Who's Coming to Dinner."

The legendary actor was Hollywood's first Black movie star -- and his legendary career blazed a trail that would be followed by actors like Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, and others who refused to let the color of their skin dictate the roles they took. In the 1970s, he started working behind the camera, splitting his time between directing and acting for the next three decades.

In 2002, he received an honorary Oscar for his life's work. That same night, Washington became the second Black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor, and Halle Berry became the first Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress.

"I came here at a time when this Hollywood that you know was not the Hollywood here when I arrived," Poitier said.

He went on to become to be a film director, activist and ambassador, has been appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and has received a Kennedy Center honor. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-President Obama in 2009.

Poitier had dual citizenship in the United States and the Bahamas, where he grew up the youngest of seven children, and went on to serve as the Bahamian ambassador to Japan from 1997 to 2007.

He is survived by his wife, Joanna, and six daughters.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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