Ken Howard, president of the prominent Hollywood actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, died Wednesday at age 71, the organization said.
Howard died at his home near Los Angeles, the union said, without specifying the cause of death.
An Emmy and Tony award-winning actor, Howard played an instrumental role in the merger that formed the union.
As director of the Screen Actors Guild, a position which he held since 2009, he orchestrated the body’s merger with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in 2012 to form SAG-AFTRA, which now represents some 160,000 performers.
“Ken was an inspirational leader and it is an incredible loss for SAG-AFTRA, for his family and for everyone who knew him,” said SAG-AFTRA acting president Gabrielle Carteris, who starred in the 1990s television series “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
“He led us through tumultuous times and set our union on a steady course of excellence,” she said.
Howard appeared in a similar ‘90s series “Melrose Place” and also played lawyer Garrett Boydston on “Dynasty” in the 1980s.
In 1978, Howard took on the role of Coach Ken Reeves for the television series “The White Shadow,” portraying the white coach of an inner-city basketball team. The show ran for three seasons.
“Even decades after the show ended, Howard was frequently recognized on the street by fans who greeted him with a handshake and a ‘Hey, Coach’,” the union statement said.
More recently, he appeared in the hit TV show “30 Rock” alongside Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. He also had roles in movies such as “Clear and Present Danger,” “Rambo IV,” “Michael Clayton,” “J. Edgar,” and “Joy.”
Howard is the winner of the 1970 Tony Award for his performance in Broadway’s “Child’s Play” and received an Emmy for his role in the mini-series “Grey Gardens.”