The Tragic Death Of Mod Squad Star Clarence Williams III

Clarence Williams III has died. The actor — best known for his breakout role playing undercover police officer Linc Hayes on the 1960s TV series "The Mod Squad," alongside costars Peggy Lipton and Michael Cole — passed away in Los Angeles on June 4, 2021 of colon cancer, his management confirmed to Variety. He was 81 years old. Williams was born August 21, 1939 in New York City. He is survived by his sister, Sondra Pugh, and his daughter, Jamey Phillips, as well as a niece, two grand nephews, and a grandniece.

On social media, fans and celebrity friends remembered the late actor and his many contributions to television and film. Singer Lenny Kravitz paid tribute to Williams on Facebook, writing, "When I was a kid growing up in NYC Clarence Williams III was a face on TV that I identified with and that inspired me. From the Mod Squad, to Purple Rain and Sugar Hill, he always performed with dynamic energy. Rest in power, king." The official Facebook page for late musician Prince also paid tribute to Williams as he was remembered for his performance as "The Kid's" father, Francis L., in the singer's breakthrough film "Purple Rain."

Williams' death came two years after the death of his "Mod Squad" co-star Lipton, who also passed away from cancer, per the Los Angeles Times.

Clarence Williams III's acting career spanned six decades

Clarence Williams III started his acting career in the early 1960s after serving two years in the United States Air Force, per his IMDb bio. He made his stage debut in the 1960 show "The Long Dream" and scored a Tony Award nod a few years later for his stage work. His small-screen break came in 1968 with the counterculture police drama, "The Mod Squad," where he played cool cop Linc Hayes from 1968 until 1973. In 1995, Williams told the Los Angeles Times that the role of Linc was a "very different role for an African American and a wonderful lead character that a lot of youngsters, Black and White," could identify with.

In the 1980s, Williams focused on film work and landed the role of the abusive father of Prince's "The Kid" character in the blockbuster hit, "Purple Rain." The veteran actor worked steadily in TV and film from the 1980s up until three years before his death, turning up as a guest star on "The Cosby Show," "T.J. Hooker," and "Twin Peaks," as well as in movies including "Sugar Hill" and "Half Baked."

In more recent years Williams appeared in the TV series "Empire," and the movie "Lee Daniels' The Butler." His last credited acting role was in 2018 in "American Nightmare," per IMDb.