Mod Squad Icon Clarence Williams III Is Dead At 81

Clarence Williams III, the fan-favorite actor best known for his role as Linc Hayes on the classic show The Mod Squad, has died. The actor reportedly passed away following a battle with colon cancer. The actor was 81 at the time of his passing.

The veteran actor passed away in Los Angeles this past Friday, June 4, which was confirmed to news outlets like The Hollywood Reporter by the actor’s management. Williams had been acting for decades but in recent years, had retired from the profession.

Clarence Williams III was born on August 21, 1939 in New York City and became interested in acting at a young age. He would later serve in the U.S. military and, after his stint, he would seriously pursue a career in acting. Williams would start his acting career in earnest as a stage performer, during which he starred in plays like Walk in Darkness, Sarah and the Sax and King John. He would eventually earn acclaim and a Tony nomination for his performance in William Hanley's Slow Dance on the Killing Ground. Although the actor certainly made a name for himself on stage, his career was only beginning to take off.

The role that would forever embed Clarence Williams III in the pop culture zeitgeist was his performance as undercover cop Linc Hayes on the hit show The Mod Squad. His cool and collected character became a hit on the show, and he played the role for the show’s entire five-season run from 1968 to 1973. He would also play Linc again in the 1979 television movie, The Return of the Mod Squad. The role would effectively turn the actor into a TV mainstay and, even today, television enthusiasts can quote some of the character's signature lines.

The Mod Squad served as a milestone in television history, as it marked one of the earliest instances in which an African American character was shown as being on equal footing with their white counterparts. With this, Williams became somewhat of a Black power icon during the ‘70s.

After The Mod Squad finished its run, Clarence Williams III continued to appear on TV, with shows like Miami Vice, Star Trek DS9 and Twin Peaks as only a few of the credits on his résumé. The actor also had his fair share of film roles, with his most notable arguably being his performance as Father in Prince’s Purple Rain and eccentric mortician Mr. Simms in the Spike Lee-produced Tales from the Hood.

Needless to say, Clarence Williams III made a number of contributions to the world of TV and film. The actor will likely be best known for the intensity and dignity that he brought to his performances as well as the smooth afro he sported during his time on The Mod Squad.

We here at CinemaBlend extend our thoughts to the family of Clarence Williams III during this time.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.