Clarence Williams III, who performed the role of undercover cop Linc Hayes on the counterculture show “The Mod Squad” and Prince’s dad in “Purple Rain,” is no more. He was 81. Clarence died Friday at his residence in LA after a battle with colon cancer, his manager Allan Mindel announced Sunday. Tributes came swiftly on social media from both those who worked with Clarence and praised him for his trailblazing roles & impactful performances.
Rusty Cundieff, “Tales from the Hood” director, tweeted that his grief over Clarence’s passing “can’t be overstated. His artistry & sheer coolness were amazing. I’ll always be in his debt for his splendid performance in Tales From the Hood. I loved working with him! Blessed travels, good sir!”
Simultaneously with his theatre productions, Clarence also starred in numerous shows and films, including: “52 Pick-Up,” “Against the Wall,” “The General’s Daughter,” “Reindeer Games,” “Purple Rain,” “American Gangster,” “Half Baked” & “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”
Clarence is sustained by his sister Sondra Pugh, child Jamey Phillips, niece Suyin Shaw, grandnephews Elliot Shaw & Ese Shaw, and grandniece Azaria Verdin, the statement declared.
His breakout character would come with “The Mod Squad,” which he led with Peggy Lipton & Michael Cole. Bill Cosby had seen Clarence perform & told Aaron Spelling he should consider him for the role of Linc. It ran on ABC from 1968 through 1973. A trailblazing show for attempting to display the hippie generation of the time, “The Mod Squad” was a star-maker for all three. But characters weren’t quick to follow for Clarence.
He performed on Broadway opposite Maggie Smith in Tom Stoppard’s “Night and Day” in 1979 before getting cast as the troubled dad in “Purple Rain,” which came out in 1984.
Director John Frankenheimer becomes a frequent collaborator. They first teamed up for his adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “52 Pick-Up” when Clarence lacked luck in Hollywood and crashed on Cosby’s couch to keep a roof over his head.