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Howard Rollins
Born Howard Ellsworth Rollins, Jr.
October 17, 1950(1950-10-17)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Died December 8, 1996 (aged 46)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Other name(s) Howard Rollins, Jr.
Howard E. Rollins
Howard E. Rollings, Jr.

Howard Ellsworth Rollins, Jr. (October 17, 1950 – December 8, 1996) was an American television, film, and stage actor. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in the film Ragtime, and for his portrayal of Virgil Tibbs in the NBC/CBS television series In the Heat of the Night.


Early life and career

The youngest of four children, Rollins was born in Baltimore, Maryland where he studied theater at Towson State College nearby. In 1970, he left college early to play the role of "Slick" in the PBS soap opera Our Street. In 1974, he moved to New York where he went on to appear on Broadway and in television films including Roots: The Next Generations.[1]

In 1982, Rollins was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the Dino De Laurentiis/Miloš Forman motion picture, Ragtime (1981). The following year, he was nominated for an Daytime Emmy for his role on Another World.

In 1984, Rollins starred in director Norman Jewison's film, A Soldier's Story which led to his role as Virgil Tibbs on the In the Heat of the Night television series based on Jewison's acclaimed film In the Heat of the Night.

In 1988, Rollins was arrested and plead guilty to cocaine possession in Louisiana. In 1993, he served a month in jail for reckless driving and driving under the influence. Because of continued legal problems, Rollins was ultimately dropped from In the Heat of the Night and was replaced by Carl Weathers.[2] After attending drug rehab, he returned to In the Heat of the Night as a guest star.[3]

In the last years of his life, Rollins appeared on the TV shows New York Undercover and Remember WENN (his final acting role), in the PBS film Harambee!, and in the theatrical film Drunks.


Rollins died on December 8, 1996 from complications from lymphoma. He had been diagnosed with the disease approximately six weeks earlier.[4]

On October 25, 2006, a wax statue of Rollins was unveiled at the Senator Theatre in Baltimore. The statue is now at Baltimore's Great Blacks in Wax Museum.[5]


Year Film Role Notes
1981 Ragtime Coalhouse Walker Jr. Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year - Actor
1984 The House of God Chuck Johnston
A Soldier's Story Captain Davenport
1990 On the Block Clay Beasley
1995 Drunks Joseph
Year Title Role Notes
1978 The Trial of the Moke Television movie
King Andrew Young Miniseries
Credited as Howard Rollins
1979 Roots: The Next Generations George Haley Miniseries
My Old Man Doctor Television movie
1981 Thornwell Carson Television movie
All My Children F. B. I. Agent 1 episode
1982 Fridays Guest host 1 episode
The Neighborhood Allen Campbell Television movie
The Member of the Wedding Honey Brown Television movie
Another World Ed Harding Unknown episodes
Nominated - Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
1983 For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story Medgar Evers Television movie
Moving Right Along Unknown episodes
1984 House of Dies Drear Walter Small Television movie
A Doctor's Story Dr. Zack Williams Television movie
He's Fired, She's Hired Raoul Television movie
1985 Wildside Bannister Sparks 6 episodes
1986 The Boy King Martin Luther King, Sr. Television movie
The Children of Times Square Otis Travis Television movie
Johnnie Mae Gibson: FBI T.C. Russell Television movie
1988-1994 In the Heat of the Night Chief of Detectives Virgil Tibbs 99 episodes
1992 With Murder in Mind Samuel Carver Television movie
1994 In the Heat of the Night: Who Was Geli Bendl? Virgil Tibbs Television movie
1995 New York Undercover Reverend Hundley 1 episode
1996 Remember WENN George Smith 1 episode
Harambee! Chimbuko Television movie


External links



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