Clarence Williams III, Prince’s Father in ‘Purple Rain,’ Dies at 81

Clarence Williams III, who starred as the brooding undercover cop Lincoln Hayes on the countercultural 1968-73 ABC drama The Mod Squad, has died. He was 81.

Williams died in Los Angeles on Friday (June 4) of colon cancer, his management confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

An actor of uncommon intensity, Williams began his career on the stage and earned a Tony nomination in 1965 for best featured actor in a play for his work in the powerful three-person drama Slow Dance on the Killing Ground. Decades later, he returned to Broadway to star opposite Maggie Smith in the original 1979 production of Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day.

On the big screen, the Harlem native portrayed Prince’s troubled father in Purple Rain (1984) and was Wesley Snipes and Michael Wright’s drug-addled dad in Sugar Hill (1993). In Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Legend of 1900 (1998), Williams tapped into his family’s musical roots to appear as jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton.

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