White Shadow star and SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard has died at age 71. News of Howard’s passing was addressed on the SAG-AFTRA website with no specific cause of death provided at this time.
Howard was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 2009 and would be reelected in 2011 with the organization merging into the entity SAG-AFTRA in 2012. Combining the Screen Actors Guild with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists was considered no easy feat and serves as a major accomplishment of Howard’s leadership with SAG.
As an actor, Howard’s career was decorated with accolades such as a 1970 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for Child’s Play and an Emmy-earning turn as Phelan Beale in HBO’s adapatation of the legendary doc Grey Gardens. It wouldn’t just be award-winning fare for Howard, mind you. To a certain generation of TV fan, he’ll always live on as Coach Reeves from The White Shadow in their hearts. Other notable TV credits include work on NBC’s Crossing Jordan, the lead role on CBS’ short-lived crime-drama The Manhunter, and a heartwarming run as Kabletown czar/hug enthusiast Hank Hooper on 30 Rock. He may also serve as a familiar face if you’ve watched films like Michael Clayton, The Net, or Rambo. His filmography is varied enough that it’s hard to think of someone that hasn’t encountered a smidge of his screen presence.
SAG-AFTRA Acting President Gabrielle Carteris applauded Howard’s devotion and expressed the impact he had on the organization courtesy of a statement:
“Ken was an inspirational leader and it is an incredible loss for SAG-AFTRA, for his family and for everyone who knew him. He was a light that never dimmed and was completely devoted to the membership. He led us through tumultuous times and set our union on a steady course of excellence. We will be forever in his debt.”
The union’s statement emphasizes Howard’s work as a “hands-on leader” that “worked closely with national executive director David White in returning the union to fiscal stability.” His efforts were celebrated in 2015 when Howard received the union’s highest service honor in the form of the George Heller Memorial Gold Card.
Condolences are already popping up on Twitter.