1939 - 2004

“I was given a lot of prestige as a distinguished black actor but very little power. They give prestige out by the buckets, but they give power by the teaspoon, just enough to stroke your ego.”

– Paul Winfield

After seeing the film ‘Home of the Brave’ (1949) in which an African-American actor played a leading part rather than a servant, Paul Winfield decided to become an actor. He first gained attention as Diahann Carroll’s boyfriend on the groundbreaking TV series ‘Julia’ (1968). In ‘Sounder’ (1972) he played a Louisiana sharecropper who steals a ham to feed his starving family, a role that made him only the third African-American to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. In 1978 he received an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Martin Luther King in the miniseries ‘King’ and was nominated for an Emmy the following year for ‘Roots: The Next Generations.’ His additional credits include ‘Huckleberry Finn’ (1974), ‘Backstairs at the White House’ (1979), ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ (1982), ‘The Terminator’ (1984), ‘James Baldwin’s ‘Go Tell it on The Mountain’ (1985), ‘The Women of Brewster Place’ (1989), and ‘Tyson’ (1995). His TV series work includes ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘Babylon 5.’ In 1995 he received an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor on a Drama Series for ‘Picket Fences.’ Winfield was also an extremely prolific voice-over actor, best-known as the narrator for the A&E true crime series ‘City Confidential.’ His only Broadway production, ‘Checkmates’ (1989),’ co-starred Ruby Dee and was the Broadway debut of Denzel Washington. He received the NAACP Image Award for Best Actor in 1982 and has been inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Though openly gay in his personal life, Winfield was more discreet professionally. His partner of 30 years, architect Charles Gillan Jr., died in 2002 of bone cancer. Distraught over Gillan’s passing, Winfield – who had long battled obesity and diabetes – died two years later of a heart attack in Los Angeles. He was 64.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity African American Black

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution


Social Justice


Commemorations & Honors

Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Inductee (1979)

NAACP Image Award Winner for Best Drama Actor for The Sophisticated Gents (1982)

Emmy Award Winner for Guest Actor in Picket Fences (1992)

Lifetime Achievement Award From The Saint Louis Film Festival (1999)


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Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell