Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd Killed in Atlanta Shooting; The Tony Nominee Was 70

Obituaries   Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd Killed in Atlanta Shooting; The Tony Nominee Was 70
The performer appeared in the 2003 revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Thomas Byrd Jefferson_Obit Graphic_HR

Stage and screen star Thomas Jefferson Byrd, who earned a Tony nomination for his performance as Toledo in the 2003 Broadway revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, died October 3, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was 70. The New York Times reports that police officers found him "unresponsive" on a city street with multiple gunshot wounds to the back.

Throughout his career, Mr. Byrd starred in regional productions, including a 2011 production of Alice Childress' Trouble in Mind at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

Thomas Jefferson Byrd
Thomas Jefferson Byrd

On screen, the performer appeared in a number of Spike Lee films including Chi-Raq, Clockers, He Got Game, and Set It Off. Additional credits include the musical biopic Ray and the small screen adaptation of Lackawanna Blues. His final film performance will be in the upcoming Freedom’s Path.

Born in 1950 in Florida, Mr. Byrd grew up in Georgia and attended Morris Brown College in Atlanta, where he received a bachelor’s degree in education. Later, he studied dance at the California Institute of the Arts, earning a master of fine arts.

According to Mr. Byrd’s former representative Craig Wyckoff, the artist started focusing more on teaching in his later years but still managed to find time for acting, such as his performance as Stokely Darling in the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, created by Lee and based on his film of the same name.

After news of his death broke, Lee, Viola Davis, Wendell Pierce, and others expressed their sympathies on social media.

Information about Mr. Byrd’s survivors was not immediately available.