Ji-Tu Cumbuka, known for playing Wrestler on the ABC show Roots, died age 77
Ji-Tu Cumbuka has had an illustrious acting career, having landed countless roles in television and films over the years.
Cumbuka passed away July 4th in Atlanta, Georgia according to Amber Holifield, his niece, who posted on Facebook about it.
Holifield’s post read: “In my Uncle Ji-Tu’s final days until his final moments he was surrounded with love and support! It was a blessing for all of us to be together in his final hour, and not to mention we pretty much stayed at the hospital with him, and boy did he enjoy our company.”
“The nurses, maybe a different story . . . lol. He stayed strong and just as sweet as he wanted to be the entire time and that I will never forget that!!”
His television credits include Ironside, Sanford and Son, A Man Called Sloane, The Six Million Dollar Man, Walker Texas Ranger, and CSI, among others.
In film, Cumbuka’s most famed role was perhaps “Toothless Gambler” in Eddie Murphy’s comedy Harlem Nights. However, Cumbuka had roles both major and minor in movies such as Mandingo, Fun With Dick and Jane, Midnight Edition, Blacula, Maurie, and Moving.
Cumbuka also released an autobiography entitled “A Giant to Remember: The Black Actor in Hollywood” in 2011. He spent the last years of his life founding and managing the Help Somebody Foundation Miniseries, a non-profit that helps people battle addiction.
Tributes on social media emerge to praise the actor’s accomplishments
LeVar Burton, who played Kunta Kinte in the 1977 award-winning miniseries by Alex Haley, tweeted: “He played the Wrestler in the original Roots, one of Kunta’s primary mentors. As he was for me on my first gig! #RIP”
Fans of the actor tweeted and posted their favorite Cumbuka roles in memory.