It feels like no more than a couple days can ever go by anymore without having to type out an obituary. Under the circumstances of the current environment, it's perhaps no longer shocking to learn of some great talent that has been lost, but the death of Thomas Jefferson Byrd, an actor and frequent collaborator of Spike Lee is especially tragic because his death has been unnatural.
Yesterday Spike Lee took to Instagram to inform his followers of the death by homicide of Thomas Jefferson Byrd. While Byrd might not be a household name, the actor appeared in more than a half dozen Spike Lee joints, including Chi-Raq, Get on the Bus, and Clockers. See Lee's tribute to his fallen friend is below.
At this point, there isn't a lot of detail about what exactly happened to Thomas Jefferson Byrd and the investigation is still ongoing. In the early hours of Saturday morning, police responded to a call regarding an injured person, and Byrd was found unresponsive. Emergency Medical Services were dispatched but Byrd was pronounced dead, due to multiple gunshot wounds to the back. That's essentially all that's been released so far. Atlanta police are investigating the homicide but if any new information has been discovered explaining what happened to Byrd, it has not been released.
Thomas Jefferson Byrd's feature film debut was in Spike Lee's Clockers, and as the writer and director suggests, it's probably the actor's best-known role in a Spike Lee joint, but far from his only one. Outside of working with Lee, Byrd made guests appearances on a variety of television shows and appeared in several other movies, including Ray, Bullworth, and Antoine Fuqua's Brooklyn's Finest. Byrd has one more project in the pipeline, Brett Smith's Freedom's Path.
Thomas Jefferson Byrd also appeared on the stage and he was nominated for a Tony Award in 2003 for his performance in Ma' Rainey's Black Bottom.
Spike Lee isn't the only person mourning the loss of Thomas Jefferson Byrd. Viola Davis also spoke on Twitter about Byrd when she found out the news.
Police are calling all their information "preliminary" at this point, so things could potentially change before we get a clearer picture of exactly what happened to Thomas Jefferson Byrd. It's a tragic scene nonetheless and certainly not the way anybody should have to go out. Certainly, those that new Byrd well, like Spike Lee, are thinking about the actor's family at a time like this who have all lost somebody they loved.