Thomas Jefferson Byrd Murdered in Atlanta, Actor & Spike Lee Collaborator Was 70
Veteran actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd, known for appearing in several Spike Lee movies, was reportedly shot dead in Atlanta over the weekend. According to police spokesman Officer Anthony Grant, police responded to an emergency call at around 1:45 a.m. on Saturday morning where they found the Tony-nominated actor unresponsive with several gunshots wounds in his back. He was then pronounced dead by responding paramedics, and homicide detectives are now investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Byrd was 70 years old.
Saddened by the news, Spike Lee took to Instagram to comment on Byrd’s passing. Including a photo of Byrd in Clockers, Lee writes, “I’m So Sad To Announce The Tragic Murder Of Our Beloved Brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd Last Night In Atlanta,Georgia. Tom Is My Guy, Here Below You See Him As The Frightening Character Errol Barnes In CLOCKERS.”
Lee added, “Brother Byrd Also Did His Thang In My Joints- CHI-RAQ,SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS, RED HOOK SUMMER,BAMBOOZLED,HE GOT GAME,GET ON THE BUS,GIRL 6 And CLOCKERS. May We All Wish Condolences And Blessings To His Family. Rest In Peace Brother Byrd.”
Fellow performer Viola Davis also spoke about the news on Twitter. “Oh no!!! 2020! Whaaattt!!! Loved working with you Byrd. What a fine actor you were. So sorry your life ended this way. Praying for your family. So very sorry,” she writes.
Oh no!!! 2020! Whaaattt!!! Loved working with you Byrd. What a fine actor you were. So sorry your life ended this way. Praying for your family. So very sorry.💔💔💛💛💛https://t.co/R9YxP4gNW4
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) October 4, 2020
Thomas Jefferson Byrd was born on June 25, 1950. Receiving his Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from California Institute of the Arts, Byrd would appear in a variety of stage productions at the start of his acting career. This includes the award-winning Spunk at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, along with stage productions of other titles like Hamlet, Home, Two Trains Running, Flyin’ West, and The Piano Lesson. In his 2003 Broadway debut, Byrd starred as Toledo in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a role that earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
Byrd made his movie debut in Lee’s 1995 movie Clockers, with the filmmaker seeing great potential in the actor. As Lee notes in his tribute post, Byrd then became a mainstay in the famous director’s movies for the rest of his acting career, frequently appearing in a variety of Lee’s movies. He has also had roles in several other Hollywood movies, including Ray, Set It Off, Brooklyn’s Finest, and Bulworth. Byrd has also been seen in television shows like Mama Flora’s Family, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Living Single.
More recently, Byrd appeared in the upcoming movie Freedom’s Path, which will be released posthumously. He also appeared in an episode of the TBS comedy series The Last O.G. and had a recurring role in Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It.
Additional details surrounding Byrd’s homicide are unclear with the investigation ongoing. At this time, our thoughts go out to Byrd’s family and friends. Let’s hope an arrest will soon be made so the family can see some justice, and may Byrd rest in peace. This news comes to us from CBS News.