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Sidney Poitier, First Black Man To Win Best Actor Oscar, Dies At 94

HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA) — Groundbreaking actor Sidney Poitier has died, according to the deputy prime minister of the Bahamas. Poitier was 94 years old.

In a Facebook post, Bahamian Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper said he felt conflicted at hearing the news of Poitier's passing.

"We have lost an icon; a hero, a mentor, a fighter, a national treasure," Cooper wrote on Facebook. "I was conflicted with a great sadness and a sense of celebration when I learned of the passing of Sir Sindey [sic] Poitier. Sadness that he would no longer be here to tell him how much he means to us, but celebration that he did so much to show the world that those from the humblest beginnings can change the world and that we gave him his flowers while he was with us."

He died at his home in Los Angeles on Friday morning, though a cause of death has not yet been announced.

Poitier With Oscar
Bahamian American actor Sidney Poitier holding his Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for 'Lilies Of The Field', directed by Ralph Nelson, at the 36th Academy Awards ceremony, 13th April 1964. The ceremony was held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

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.

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)

He went on to become to be a film director, activist and an 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.

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