Actor and SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard died suddenly today five days shy of his 72nd birthday.
Howard is best known for starring the CBS TV series The White Shadow which ran for three seasons between 1978 and 1981 in which he played Ken Reeves, a journeyman NBA player who becomes the coach of an inner city high school basketball team. Younger viewers may remember him on Crossing Jordan with Jill Hennessy which aired on NBC between 2001-20004 and more recently had a recurring role on 30 Rock. In 2009, he would win an Emmy for his role in the HBO mini-series Grey Gardens
Over the years, Howard guest starred in numerous TV shows like Murder, She Wrote, Dynasty (as well as its spinoff The Colbys), The Office, Law & Order: SVU & Blue Bloods.
However, it was the stage where Howard first came to notice. He would debut on Broadway in 1968 in Promises, Promises starring Jerry Orbach. Two years later, Howard would win a Tony Award for his role in Child’s Play. Howard would also star as Thomas Jefferson in 1776 and reprise the role in the film version.
On a personal note, I would see Howard play Tip O’Neill in a one man play called The World According to Tip which was staged at the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, Massachusetts in July 2008 with my older brother Ezra. You can read my review of Howard’s performance here.
The following year, Howard was elected Screen Actors Guild President and would be re-elected two years later. He would help oversee the merger of SAG with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA) in 2012.
Above is a short video of Howard accepting his Emmy for Grey Gardens.