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Otis Young, Outcast, 1968
Otis Young was born on this date in 1932. He was a Black actor, minister, and educator.
Born R.I. Young, he was one of 14 children. He joined the Marine Corps at 17 and enrolled in acting classes at New York University on the GI Bill after serving in the Korean War. He studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Drama in New York City in 1960 and appeared in numerous theater productions in Los Angeles.
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. In that role, Young was the first Black actor to co-star in a Western television series.
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 American Civil Rights Movement, "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 several 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 in communications from the 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 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.