Black Hollywood has lost a legend with the death of Bernie Casey, 78, after a sudden illness in Los Angeles. Casey was born in Wyco, West Virginia, and went on to attend Bowling Green University. He was an outstanding student-athlete and went on to play in the NFL. Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, he went on to play six seasons with the team and then played for the L.A. Rams.
After leaving football Casey was a part of a pioneering group of strong Black male heroes who broke into Hollywood in the late ’60s and ’70s. His first big break came with the film Guns of the Magnificent Seven a sequel to the classic The Magnificent Seven. From there Casey was a part of more than 80 projects and became a well-known face that personified no-nonsense Black manhood. His other major projects included Cleopatra Jones, tick…tick…tick…, Brian’s Song, Sharkey’s Machine and even the role of CIA agent Felix Leiter in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again.
Casey even took a turn at comedy when he starred in the Hollywood classic, I’m Gonna Get You Sucka. He parodied his image as a retired tough hero in his role as a cop disappointed in a Black community that turned on him because of his rough tactics. He also starred in many TV projects including the TV mini-series “The Martian Chronicles.”
One role that cemented his name and face in popular culture was in that of U.N. Jefferson, the national head of the Lambda Lambda Lambda, a Black fraternity in Revenge of the Nerds.
Casey was also a respected artist and served as a board member of the Savannah College of Art and Design for many years. His artwork was also displayed as a special exhibit at Nashville’s Opryland Hotel in the 1990s. According to TMZ, his publicist said he was surrounded by family members at the time of his death.