Blacks in Wax adds actor Rollins

October 27, 2006|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun Movie Critic

Howard E. Rollins Jr., a Baltimore-born actor whose achievements included a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for 1981's Ragtime, will be joining the lineup at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum next week.

Rollins' early credits included the soap opera All My Children and a pair of influential TV miniseries: Roots: The Next Generation (playing George Haley, the brother of Roots author Alex Haley) and King, a dramatization of the life of Martin Luther King Jr., in which he played Andrew Young.

In Ragtime, based on E.L. Doctorow's historical novel of turn-of-the-century New York, Rollins played Coalhouse Walker Jr., a black piano player whose indignation at being insulted by a group of bigoted white firemen escalates into a hostage crisis at the city's famed J. Pierpont Morgan Library. Rollins lost the Oscar but stayed in the spotlight long enough to grab the starring role in 1984's A Soldier's Story, playing an Army attorney investigating the shooting death of a black sergeant at a New Orleans base during World War II.

Rollins also spent six seasons playing Detective Virgil Tibbs on the TV series In the Heat of the Night, opposite Carroll O'Connor. He died in New York on Dec. 8, 1994, of complications from lymphoma, at age 46.

The actor was feted last night during ceremonies at the Senator Theatre, during which his wax figure was unveiled. It will be on display at the museum, 1601-03 North Ave., beginning Monday.

Chris Kaltenbach

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