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Joel Fluellen; Actor Fought Hollywood Bias

February 07, 1990

Actor Joel Fluellen, who protested black stereotyping in Hollywood and played supporting roles in several films, among them "The Jackie Robinson Story," "Friendly Persuasion," "Porgy and Bess" and "The Great White Hope," is dead, an apparent suicide.

Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman Bob Dambacher said Monday that an autopsy showed Fluellen died from a gunshot wound to the head. There evidently was no suicide note, Dambacher added.

Police found his body Friday at his Los Angeles home. He was 81.

Along with a string of movie and television credits, the Louisiana-born Fluellen played an instrumental role in fighting black discrimination in Hollywood during the 1940s and '50s.

Fluellen introduced resolutions to the Screen Actors Guild asking the group to "use all its powers to oppose discrimination against Negroes in the motion picture industry." He also asked SAG to form a committee.

His proposals were turned down, but 23 years later SAG did form the Ethnic Equal Opportunity Committee.

Fluellen came to Hollywood around 1940 after appearing on the New York stage. His first screen credit was "Without Reservations" in 1946 and his last, "Casey's Shadow" in 1978.

Fluellen played the brother of the first black major league baseball player in the 1950 movie, "The Jackie Robinson Story." His other movie credits include "The Learning Tree," "Run Silent, Run Deep" and "The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings."

He also appeared in the television series "Hill Street Blues."

In 1985, he and Frances Williams received the first Paul Robeson Pioneer Awards from the Black American Cinema Society.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Ebony Showcase Theater, 4720 Washington Blvd.

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