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‘Dignity and grace’: Obama leads tributes to actor Sidney Poitier

Former president says groundbreaking Black performer ‘opened doors for a generation of actors’; Biden lauds his ‘singular warmth, depth and stature’

Then US President Barack Obama presents the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sidney Poitier during ceremonies in the East Room at the White House in Washington on, Aug. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Then US President Barack Obama presents the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sidney Poitier during ceremonies in the East Room at the White House in Washington on, Aug. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Tributes to Sidney Poitier poured in from Hollywood and around the world following the death Thursday of the groundbreaking actor and cultural icon.

Poitier, who was the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for best lead performance and the first to be a top box-office draw, was 94.

“Through his groundbreaking roles and singular talent, Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together. He also opened doors for a generation of actors,” former US president Barack Obama said in a statement.

“Sidney was more than just one of the finest actors in our history… With unflinching grandeur and poise — his singular warmth, depth, and stature on-screen — Sidney helped open the hearts of millions and changed the way America saw itself,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement.

“For over 80 years, Sidney and I laughed, cried and made as much mischief as we could. He was truly my brother and partner in trying to make this world a little better. He certainly made mine a whole lot better,” said actor Harry Belafonte.

“It was a privilege to call Sidney Poitier my friend. He was a gentle man and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years. God bless him and his family,” Denzel Washington said.

“My honor to have loved him as a mentor. Friend. Brother. Confidant. Wisdom teacher. The utmost, highest regard and praise for his most magnificent, gracious, eloquent life. I treasured him. I adored him. He had an enormous soul I will forever cherish,” Oprah Winfrey wrote on Instagram.

“Sidney was my inspiration, my guiding light, my friend,” Morgan Freeman wrote on Twitter.

“The last time I saw Sidney was at a golf course in LA. I saw him across the room and walked toward him with my hand out to shake his. Ignoring my hand, he opened both of his arms wide and embraced me warmly. Then he let me go and held me at arm’s length staring me in my eyes and said in his signature cadence, ‘I dig what you do, my man.’ I almost fainted,” said actor Don Cheadle.

“Sidney Poitier was a pioneer for artists of color everywhere. At 9, I read he imitated broadcasters since he was ridiculed for his accent. For the next 10 years I did the same to overcome my own speech impediment. I owe my voice to him. Never EVER doubt that representation matters. Rest in power titan,” poet Amanda Gorman wrote on Facebook.

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