The youngest of four children, Howard Ellsworth Rollins, Jr., was born in Baltimore in 1950.
Rollins studied theater at Towson State College, dropping out in 1970 to play the role of Slick in the PBS soap opera Our Street. In 1974, Rollins moved to New York where he appeared on Broadway and in television films including Roots: The Next Generations.
In 1982, Rollins was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Coalhouse Walker, Jr.in the film Ragtime. The following year, he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his role on Another World.
In 1984, Rollins starred the film A Soldier’s Story, which led to his role as Virgil Tibbs on the In the Heat of the Night television series. Late in his career, Rollins ran into trouble with drugs and the law. He died of complications of lymphoma on Dec.8, 1996, less than six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
The Howard E. Rollins Foundation was created as a result of Rollins’ induction into Baltimore’s The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in October 2006. The foundation awards scholarships and provides cultural and educational programs in the performing and film media arts for inner city, minority and disadvantaged youth.
Visiting Rollins’ Grave
Rollins is interred in crypt 36-A at the Chapel Mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, 2130 Woodlawn Dr., (410) 944-2600.
GPS: N 39° 19.468′, W 076° 43.550′