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The Margin: Sidney Poitier was ‘the most dignified man I’ve ever met,’ says Bob Iger — entertainers, politicians pay tribute to the actor

Sidney Poitier is being remembered not just as a man who charted a future course for actors of color — “Hollywood’s first Black matinee idol,” the New York Times dubbed him — but also as a man who “epitomized dignity and grace,” in the words of Barack Obama.

The former U.S. president was one of many to pay tribute to Poitier, whose passing, at age 94, was announced Friday.

In a statement, President Joe Biden called Poitier a “once-in-a-generation actor and advocate whose work carried so much dignity, power, and grace that it changed the world on and off the big screen.”

Those in the entertainment field were especially quick to share their condolences.

Oprah Winfrey said that “the greatest of the ‘Great Trees’ has fallen.” She added that it was her “honor to have loved him as a mentor. Friend. Brother. Confidant. Wisdom Teacher.”

Tyler Perry spoke in personal terms, recalling a trip he took to South Africa with Poitier and Cicely Tyson, who died last year. “Selfishly, I wanted to hold them both captive for the hours long trip as I literally sat at their feet and listened to their wisdom and experiences,” Perry said.

Similarly, Viola Davis recalled a lunch she and her husband had with Poitier. Davis said: “You told us, ‘If your dreams do not scare you, they’re not big enough.’”

Many Black actors pointed out that, without Poitier, they might not have the careers they have today.

LeVar Burton called Poitier his “North Star and guiding light,” adding that “Without Sidney Poitier, quite simply, there would be no LeVar Burton.”

Blair Underwood praised Poitier for giving him “guidance, wisdom, inspiration, hope and so much more. You once said that you expect twice as much from me than you did from yourself. I’ll be chasing that for the rest of my days.”

David Alan Grier put his thoughts in the most direct of terms. “Damn!” he said in a Twitter post that linked to an obituary of Poitier.

The tributes also come from executives in the entertainment world. Bob Iger, the longtime Disney DIS, +0.59% chief who recently stepped down, noted that Poitier was a board member of the company. “Sidney Poitier was the most dignified man I’ve ever met. Towering…gentle…passionate…bold…kind…altogether special,” Iger said.

And politicians weighed in as well. Andrew Holness, the prime minister of Jamaica, noted that he grew up with such Poitier films as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “In the Heat of the Night.” Holness said that Poitier “was part of my education and contributed to my understanding of racial discrimination and prejudice.”

“May his soul Rest In Peace,” Holness concluded.

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