Into the shadows
KEN Howard, veteran character actor- turned- union leader and star of classic TV show The White Shadow, died last Wednesday at his Los Angeles home. He was 71.
As president of the Screen Actors Guild since 2009, who oversaw the merger with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists ( SAG- AFTRA), Howard was last seen at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild awards in January.
A cause of death was not disclosed.
Howard was an Emmy- winning actor with a resume of screen and Broadway credits dating back to 1969, according to the Internet Movie Database.
He earned his Emmy in 2009 for his performance as Phelan Beale, the husband of Jessica Lange’s Big Edie, in HBO’s 2009 film Grey Gardens, inspired by Albert and David Maysles’ classic 1970s documentary of the same name.
But many baby boomers will remember Howard in the groundbreaking drama series The White Shadow, which aired from 19781981, about the relationship between a white high school basketball coach, played by Howard, and his team of mostly African-American players.
It was one of the first times Americans could watch on their TVs an ensemble drama with a mostly African- American cast, even though a white actor was in the lead role.
But he also had roles in such fare as Murder, She Wrote, Melrose Place, Crossing Jordan, and 30 Rock. His last two movie roles were in 2015 in The Wedding Ringer and Joy.
Variety said his most significant recent film role was 2007’ s thriller Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney. Howard played a ruthless CEO of a corporation in a multimillion- dollar class action lawsuit.
In his younger days, Howard was tall and blond, bluff and barrel- chested, with a strong screen presence. In his later years, he was respected as a strong union leader, who led the 2012 SAG- AFTRA merger with a singular focus.
The merged union now represents nearly 160,000 actors, broadcasters and recording artists. Union officials were quick to pay tribute.
“He was an exceptional person and we are deeply saddened by his passing,” said executive director David White. “He had a remarkable career and he never forgot what it was like to be a working performer.”
He was “inspirational,” added acting President Gabrielle Carteris. “He was a light that never dimmed and was completely devoted to the membership,” she said. “He led us through tumultuous times and set our union on a steady course of excellence. We will be forever in his debt.”
Howard is survived by his wife Linda Fetters. He was married twice before, including to Margo Howard, daughter of Ann Landers, the late advice columnist. – Maria Puente/ USA Today/ Tribune News Service
Ken Howard 1944- 2016