Richard Roundtree was an American actor who was born on July 9, 1942, in New Rochelle, New York.
He was known as “the first black action hero” for his portrayal of private detective John Shaft in the 1971 film Shaft, and its four sequels, released between 1972 and 2019.
Roundtree was a leading man in early 1970s blaxploitation films, his best-known role being detective John Shaft in the action movie, Shaft (1971) and its sequels, Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973).
He also appeared in other films such as Inchon (1981), Earthquake (1974) and Escape to Athena (1979).
On television, he played the slave Sam Bennett in the 1977 television series Roots and Dr. Daniel Reubens on Generations from 1989 to 1991.
Roundtree was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.
He was also an advocate in the fight against breast cancer and a 25-year male breast cancer survivor himself.
Richard Roundtree cause of death
Roundtree died at his home in Los Angeles on October 24, 2023, at the age of 81.
His longtime manager, Patrick McMinn, confirmed that the cause of death was pancreatic cancer.
Roundtree was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 and had a double mastectomy. He was a survivor and advocated for greater breast cancer awareness among men.
Richard Roundtree family
Roundtree had two marriages and a total of five children from both marriages.
His first wife was Mary Jane Grant, whom he married in 1963; they had two children together, Kelli and Nicole, before divorcing in 1973.
In 1980, Roundtree married Karen Michelle Ciernia, his second wife; they had three children: Taylor, Morgan, and John James.
However, this marriage also ended in divorce in 1998.
Roundtree’s children have led their own lives, with some of them achieving success in their respective fields.
Kelli Roundtree-Mileur, one of his daughters from his first marriage, is a jewelry designer who owns CottingTree Beads, a jewelry supply store.
Morgan, his daughter from his second marriage, has a degree in business media and communication from the University of Liverpool and is interested in politics.
Taylor, another daughter from his second marriage, is passionate about horses.
Nicole, his other daughter from his first marriage, keeps her life private and away from the media.
John James, his son from his second marriage, does not have much information available about him.
Richard Roundtree career
Roundtree had a diverse and successful career as an actor and model.
Roundtree was born in New Rochelle, New York, to Kathryn and John Roundtree.
He attended New Rochelle High School, where he played on the school’s nationally ranked football team.
In 1961, he earned an athletic scholarship to attend Southern Illinois University but left school in 1963 to pursue a career in acting and modeling.
After leaving college, Roundtree was scouted by Eunice W. Johnson of Johnson Publications and began modeling in the Ebony Fashion Fair.
He toured 79 cities in 90 days, which led to further modeling opportunities, including for Johnson
Products’ Duke hair grease and Salem cigarettes.
Roundtree’s acting career began with Off-Broadway roles, and he soon became a member of New York’s acclaimed Negro Ensemble Company in 1967.
His first role with the company was portraying boxing legend Jack Johnson in the production of The Great White Hope.
In 1971, Roundtree was cast in his most notable role as private detective John Shaft in the action film Shaft, directed by Gordon Parks.
The film’s success turned him into an international star and led to two sequels, Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973).
In addition to the Shaft franchise, Roundtree appeared in various films, including Embassy, Charley-One-Eye, Firehouse, Earthquake, Man Friday and Escape to Athena.
He also had roles in TV series such as Roots and Being Mary Jane.
In 1993, Roundtree was diagnosed with a rare form of male breast cancer, and underwent chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.
Since then, he has been an advocate for breast cancer awareness, working with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Know Your Score Men’s Health Initiative.
Roundtree received the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award for his role as Shaft and an Image Award nomination in 1998.
He was also recognized for his contributions to the entertainment industry and his advocacy work.