HomeEntertainment‘The Mod Squad’ and ‘Purple Rain’ Actor Clarence Williams III Dead at 81

‘The Mod Squad’ and ‘Purple Rain’ Actor Clarence Williams III Dead at 81

by Jon D. B.
Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr., Getty Images

The prolific talent Clarence Williams III, known as The Mod Squad‘s Detective Linc Hayes and for portraying Prince’s father in Purple Rain, among countless other phenomenal performances, has died.

From Dave Chappelle’s wild comedy Half Baked, to crime thrillers like Reindeer Games and The General’s Daughter, Clarence Williams III held a phenomenal career.

Tragically, the longtime actor’s management reveals his death Sunday. Williams died Friday, June 4, in Los Angeles, California after a battle with colon cancer, TMZ confirms.

Mod Squad broke new ground. Clarence Williams III broke new ground,” remembers guitarist and songwriter Vernon Reid Sunday. “You can draw a direct line from Clarence Williams III to both Denzel & Idris. It’s his MF moody blood running through The Kid in Purple Rain that’s the furnace of his pain & genius. Rest In Power,” Reid concludes.

From ‘The Mod Squad’ to ‘Sugar Hill’: Remembering Clarence Williams III

It’s hard to select films or shows to highlight when remembering the career of Clarence Williams III. His was a life made up of countless memorable turns in works of all shapes, sizes, and genres.

Williams began his journey in the 1960s with a remarkable start on stage. He won a “Best Actor” Tony for Broadway’s Slow Dance on the Killing Ground, a performance that would launch him into long film and television careers.

On film, Williams starred in instantly-recognizable films for multiple generations. From thrillers The General’s Daughter and Reindeer Games, to The Buttler, Deep Cover, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Sugar Hill, and Tales from the Hood… We could list the phenomenal work of Clarence Williams III into the night.

One of his most beloved and haunting turns, however, came as the father of Prince in his biopic masterpiece: Purple Rain. Within, Williams plays Prince’s troubled father to startling effect.

Classic television fans, too, will forever remember Williams as Detective Linc Hayes on The Mod Squad. The Mod Squad ran for five seasons and a whopping 123 episodes with Clarence in the lead. His work on the show was beyond groundbreaking for its time, and will forever be remembered as such.

From there, Williams would go on to supporting roles in The Cosby Show, The Littlest Hobo, Hill Street Blues, T.J. Hooker, Miami Vice, Nasty Boys, Twin Peaks, Tales from the Crypt, Star Trek, and Walker, Texas Ranger – just to name a few.

What an absolutely remarkable, career, life, and man – Mod Squad and beyond.

Clarence Williams III was 81.