Otis Young, actor with dignity


Otis Young
Date: 
Mon, 1932-07-04

Otis Young was born on this date in 1932. He was an African American actor, minister, and educator.

R.I., Young was one of 14 children. He joined the Marine Corps at 17 and after serving in the Korean War, enrolled in acting classes at New York University on the GI Bill. He studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Drama in New York City in 1960 and appeared in numerous theater productions there and in Los Angeles. Young was the first Black actor to co-star in a television Western series, "The Outcasts" in the late 1960s.

As an actor, Young's best-known movie role was as a career sailor transporting a prisoner to the brig with Jack Nicholson in the 1973 movie "The Last Detail." But he was a relative unknown when he landed a co-starring role in "The Outcasts," an hour-long Western that ran on ABC for one season, 1968-69. The series co-starred Don Murray as an ex-Confederate officer and former slave owner who lost everything during the war and teams up with Young's character, an ex-slave who became a bounty hunter. Produced during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, "The Outcasts" portrayed an interracial relationship in which Blacks and Whites could live together but not without an underlying and not always hidden resentment toward one another. "Even though they worked together as bounty hunters, we never lost the awareness between our characters," Murray said. "It never got to be a buddy-buddy, 'I Spy' thing at all."

Young was the only unknown among a number of well-known Black actors who did screen tests with Murray for the part. "He just stood out among all the rest because he was the one actor who was totally unapologetic about this hostility (between the two characters)," Murray recalled. Young's concerns over his portrayal extended to the scripts. Young earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from L.I.F.E. Bible College in Los Angeles in 1983 and between 1986 and 1988, he served as senior pastor of the Elim Foursquare Gospel Church in Rochester, N.Y.

In a 1990 interview, he recalled that he was required to play "a real tough black cowboy, but they also wanted me to say things that a Black man wouldn't say." In 1992, he received a Master of Arts degree in communications from State University of New York, Brockport. From 1989 until his retirement in 1999, he taught speech and communications at Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y., where he also taught theater. Otis Young died Oct. 12, 2001 of a stroke in Los Angeles he was 69.

He was survived by his wife, Barbara; sons El Mahdi and Jemal Lucien, both of Los Angeles; daughters Lovelady Young of Philadelphia and Saudia Young of Manhattan; and his mother, Gwendolyn Tunewald of Philadelphia.

Reference:
The Associated Press
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