Thomas Jefferson Byrd

Thomas Jefferson Byrd
Born(1950-06-25)June 25, 1950
DiedOctober 3, 2020(2020-10-03) (aged 70)
Atlanta, Georgia
EducationMorris Brown College
California Institute of the Arts
Years active1992–2020

Thomas Jefferson Byrd (June 25, 1950 – October 3, 2020) was an American character actor who played in several of director Spike Lee's films. He was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in the 2003 Broadway revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.[1]


Byrd earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Morris Brown College and later received a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from California Institute of the Arts.[1]

Byrd starred in numerous regional stage productions including the San Diego Repertory Theatre's award-winning performance of Spunk.[2] He also starred in Home by Samm-Art Evans, Two Trains Running, The Piano Lesson and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at the Alliance Theater, Flyin' West, Hamlet and Miss Evers' Boys at the Indiana Repertory, and in other productions of Flyin' West at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and at the Long Wharf Theatre.[2]

For his Broadway debut, a performance in the 2003 revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Byrd received a Tony Award nomination for best featured actor.[3][1]

Byrd appeared in several films by Spike Lee, including Clockers, Get on the Bus, Bamboozled, Red Hook Summer, and Chi-Raq.[2] Byrd also appeared as Stokely Darling in Lee's Netflix series She's Gotta Have It.[2] His other films credits include Set It Off, Ray, and Brooklyn's Finest.[2]


After an emergency call was made in Atlanta, Georgia, around 1:45 a.m. on October 3, 2020, Byrd was found unresponsive with multiple gunshot wounds in his back and pronounced dead. He was 70.[4][1][5] A spokesperson for Atlanta police said that homicide detectives were "working to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident".[4] On October 17, 2020, a 30-year-old man was arrested for having a connection to Byrd's murder.[6]



Year Title Role Notes
1995 Clockers Errol Barnes [7]
1996 Girl 6 Caller #18
1996 Get on the Bus Evan Thomas Sr.
1996 Set It Off Luther
1997 Touch Me Country Doctor
1998 He Got Game Sweetness
1998 Bulworth Uncle Rafeeq
2000 Trois Thomas
2000 Bamboozled Honeycutt
2001 MacArthur Park Cody
2002 Never Get Outta the Boat William Ellis
2002 The Kudzu Christmas Reverend Burton
2004 X, Y Marcus
2004 Ray Jimmy
2009 Brooklyn's Finest Uncle Jeb
2010 Bronx Paradise Jimmy
2012 Red Hook Summer Deacon Zee [8]
2014 Da Sweet Blood of Jesus Bishop Zee [9]
2015 Chi-Raq Apollo [10]
2020 Freedom's Path Abner Posthumous release; Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1992 In the Heat of the Night Louis Arthur Episode: "Random's Child"
1993 I'll Fly Away: Then and Now Panhandler TV movie
1997 Living Single Mr. Leon Episode: "Moonlight Savings Time"
1998 Mama Flora's Family Flora's Pa 2 episodes
1999 Passing Glory TV movie
2001 Boycott Raymond Parks TV movie
2004 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Curtis Romney Episode: "Mad Hops"
2005 Lackawanna Blues Numb Finger Pete TV movie
2017–19 She's Gotta Have It Stokely Darling 10 episodes
2020 The Last O.G. Jimmy Episode: "Family Feud"


Year Title Role Notes
2003 Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Toledo Won Theatre World Award[11]
Nominated for Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play[12]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Nominated work Result Notes
2003 Theatre World Award Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Won [11]
2003 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play Nominated [12]


  1. ^ a b c d Burns, Asia Simone (October 4, 2020). "Thomas Jefferson Byrd, actor in Spike Lee films, killed in Atlanta". Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hudson, Tanay (October 4, 2020). "Spike Lee Reveals Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd Was Murdered In Atlanta, Georgia". Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Yasharoff, Hannah (October 4, 2020). "Spike Lee mourns his longtime star Thomas Jefferson Byrd, 70, killed in apparent shooting". USA Today. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  5. ^ "American Actor Jefferson Byrd Shot Dead By Unknown Gunmen". The African Media. October 5, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  6. ^ Bruce Haring (October 17, 2020). "Suspect Arrested In Film Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd Atlanta Murder". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  7. ^ "Thomas Jefferson Byrd, actor in Spike Lee films, shot dead in Atlanta". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "Red Hook Summer (2012)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. 2019.
  9. ^ "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2015)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. 2019.
  10. ^ "Thomas Jefferson Byrd: Spike Lee pays tribute after actor's 'tragic murder'". BBC.
  11. ^ a b Fisher, James (2011). Historical Dictionary of Contemporary American Theater: 1930-2010. Scarecrow Press. p. 488. ISBN 9780810879508.
  12. ^ a b "Thomas Jefferson Byrd Tony Awards Info". BroadwayWorld. 2020. Retrieved October 5, 2020.

External links


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