The first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, Poitier has created a career filled with memorable characters who exhibited dignity, intelligence, and moral courage -- not an easy accomplishment given Hollywood's history of underserving black artists and audiences.
Poitier told CBS News' Lesley Stahl he would never play someone who was immoral or cruel: "If you go through my career package, you'll find that I didn't ever. I didn't ever."
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
After performing with the American Negro Theater, the Bahamaian native had his first major film role in the 1950 film "No Way Out," directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Sidney Poitier played a doctor facing overt racism from a prisoner played by Richard Widmark.
Poitier and Widmark would appear in several films together, including "The Bedford Incident" and "The Long Ships."
Sidney Poitier starred in the 1951 film adaptation of Alan Paton's novel, "Cry the Beloved Country."
Richard Brooks' "The Blackboard Jungle" (1955) was a powerful drama of conflict between inner city youths and their teachers. It starred Sidney Poitier, Glenn Ford and Vic Morrow (in his film debut).
Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier in "The Blackboard Jungle" (1955).
"Edge of the City" (1957), Martin Ritt's directorial debut, starred Jack Warden, John Cassavetes and Sidney Poitier in a story of racial tensions among longshoremen on New York's docks.
Sidney Poitier and Rock Hudson star as two characters who grew up close in Kenya, but as men are caught in the turmoil of a tribal insurrection in the 1957 drama "Something of Value."
Two escaped prisoners -- one black, the other white -- must depend upon one another despite their racial differences in Stanley Kramer's 1958 drama "The Defiant Ones."
Both Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for "The Defiant Ones," with Poitier becoming the first black actor to be so honored in the lead category.
Sidney Poitier starred in the 1958 film version of the Gershwin opera "Porgy and Bess," which also featured Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr., Diahann Carroll, Brock Peters and Pearl Bailey.
Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier are jazz musicians in the 1961 drama "Paris Blues."
Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil in "A Raisin in the Sun" (1961), from the play by Lorraine Hansberry.
Sidney Poitier played a worker who helps a group of nuns in the Arizona desert construct a chapel in the 1963 film "Lillies of the Field." The performance earned Poitier the Academy Award for Best Actor -- a first for a black actor.
Sidney Poitier played a Moorish king in the historical adventure "The Long Ships" (1964).
Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier starred in the 1965 Cold War drama "The Bedford Incident," about an American destroyer's pursuit of a Soviet submarine. Poitier portrayed a news photographer capturing the intense chase.
In a career of first, Poitier's role in "A Patch of Blue" (1965), about the romance between a blind woman and a black man, offered him another first: the first black actor to kiss a white actress (Elizabeth Hartman) on screen.
Sidney Poitier in the 1966 western "Duel at Diablo."
Sidney Poitier learns the difficulties of teaching in a tough neighborhood of London in the 1967 drama "To Sir, With Love."
When the 1967 film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" opened, interracial marriage was still illegal in several states. Sidney Poitier starred as a young doctor and prospective son-in-law of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
Katharine Houghton and Sidney Poitier on the set of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."
In the 1967 mystery "In the Heat of the Night," Sidney Poitier starred as Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation in the Deep South. Lee Grant co-starred along with Rod Steiger and Warren Oates.
The film, directed by Norman Jewison, won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Steiger.
Sidney Poitier with director Norman Jewison in the set of "In the Heat of the Night."
Abbey Lincoln, Sidney Poitier, Beau Bridges and Lauri Peters in the 1968 romantic comedy "For Love of Ivy."
Sidney Poitier starred in and directed the 1972 western "Buck and the Preacher," which also starred Harry Belafonte and Ruby Dee.
Sidney Poitier directed in the 1974 comedy "Uptown Saturday Night" (with Rosalind Cash, left) about the search for a stolen winning lottery ticket. It led to two other films sharing many of the same cast members, "Let's Do It Again" (with Bill Cosby, right), and "A Piece of the Action."
In "Little Nikita" (1988), an FBI agent played by Sidney Poitier investigates River Phoenix's parents, suspecting they may be foreign agents.
Sidney Poitier plays an FBI agent and Tom Berenger is a mountain guide aiding in his pursuit of a killer in the 1988 adventure-thriller "Shoot to Kill."
River Phoenix, Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd and Sidney Poitier were among the cast of the 1992 computer caper "Sneakers."
President Bill Clinton applauds as First Lady Hillary Clinton shakes hands with actor Sidney Poitier, at a reception at the White House in Washington, December 3, 1995. Poitier, along with (from left) dancer Jacques d'Amboise, opera star Marilyn Horne, musician B.B. King, and playwright Neil Simon, were later awarded Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement in the arts.
Sidney Poitier and Richard Gere starred in the 1997 thriller "The Jackal," a loose adaptation of the Frederick Forsyth novel "The Day of the Jackal," about the hunt for an assassin.
Actor-director Sidney Poitier hold his honorary Oscar March 24, 2002, at the 74th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif.
Sidney Poitier accepts an Honorary Award from the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, at the 74th Annual Academy Awards, Sunday, March 24, 2002.
Sidney Poitier, winner of an Honorary Academy Award, is greeted by Samuel L. Jackson at the Governor's Ball following the 74th Annual Academy Awards, Sunday, March 24, 2002.
Actor Sidney Poitier and his wife, Joanna Shimkus, attend the Broadway opening of "The Color Purple," at the Broadway Theatre in New York City, December 1, 2005.
Actor Sidney Poitier and singer Beyonce Knowles arrive at the 16th Carousel of Hope, a benefit for the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., October 23, 2004.
Actor Sidney Poitier talks to children during a measles vaccination campaign organized by the Red Cross in Porto Novo, Benin, December 13, 2005.
Actors Sidney Poitier and Morgan Freeman attend the hand and footprint ceremony honoring Sherry Lansing, chairman of the Paramount Motion Pictures Group, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on February 16, 2005 in Hollywood.
Actors Sidney Poitier and Morgan Freeman pose at a gala benefit dinner for Plan!t, an international disaster preparedness non-profit, held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, January 16, 2009.
Actors Martin Landau, left, and Sidney Poitier during the panel discussion for "An Academy Centennial Salute to Joseph L. Mankiewicz," on Thursday, May 21, 2009. Poitier (who appeared in Mankiewicz's "No Way Out"), co-starred with Landau in 1970's "They Call Me Mister Tibbs!" and in the 1965 Biblical epic "The Greatest Story Ever Told."
President Barack Obama 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, D.C. The Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor.
Actors Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Sidney Poitier and Sydney Tamiia Poitier arrive at the premiere of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds," at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, August 10, 2009 in Hollywood, California. The younger Poitier appeared in Tarantino's 2007 double-bill feature, "Grindhouse."
Oscar-winning Actor Sidney Poitier and his daughter, actress Sydney Tamiia Poitier, attend the Governors Awards in the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood, Calif., Saturday, November 12, 2011.
Actors Sidney Poitier, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Julius Tennon and Viola Davis ("The Help") attend the Governors Awards in the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood, CA, Saturday, November 12, 2011.
From left: Sidney Poitier, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Quincy Jones and Quentin Tarantino attend the Film Society of Lincoln Center's presentation of the 38th Annual Chaplin Award honoring Sidney Poitier, at Alice Tully Hall on May 2, 2011 in New York City.
From left: Singer Harry Belafonte, and actors Laurence Fishburne and Sidney Poitier attend the 43rd NAACP Image Awards, held at The Shrine Auditorium on February 17, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Sidney Poitier on the set of the 1998 TV movie "David and Lisa."