Actor Ji-Tu Cumbuka, who appeared on TV series Roots and films like Bound for Glory, Brewster’s Millions and Harlem Nights, has died. Cumbuka died on Tuesday in Atlanta after a long illness, his niece, Amber Holifield, announced on Facebook, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Cumbuka portrayed the slave Wrestler on the landmark 1977 ABC miniseries Roots and played opposite Richard Pryor in Brewster’s Millions (1985), Moving (1988) and, as the character Toothless Gambler, in Harlem Nights (1989). Born in Helena, Alabama, Ji-Tu Cumbuka dies at the age of 77. Apart from his work in the ABC miniseries Roots, Cumbuka also worked in Daniel Boone, Young Dan’l Boone, Knots Landing, The A-Team, The Dukes of Hazzard, Walker, Texas Ranger, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Sanford and Son, and In the Heat of the Night.
The 6-foot-5 actor had a recurring role as Torque, a man with a detachable hand, on the short-lived 1979 NBC series A Man Called Sloane, starring Robert Conrad, and he also appeared on the small screen in Brian’s Song, The Six Million Dollar Man, Ironside, Kung Fu, Sanford and Son, Knight Rider, Hunter, Knots Landing and CSI. In 2011, Ji-Tu Cumbuka had published his autobiography-cum-memoir A Giant to Remember: The Black Actor in Hollywood.
An Alabama native, Cumbuka’s prominent work in films include the likes of Change of Habit (1969), Blacula (1972), Trader Horn (1973), Lost in the Stars (1974), Mandingo (1975), Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976), Bound for Glory (1976), The Jericho Mile (1979), Doin’ Time (1985), Brewster’s Millions (1985), Volunteers (1985), Out of Bounds (1986), Moving (1988) and Caged In Paradiso (1990) and also appearances in many other films.