Best known for playing the role of the father on the television show Good Times, he also received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the miniseries Roots.
He had a sports career in both boxing and football before Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram told him that he wasn't a football player but rather a man trying to play football.
From 1994 to 1995, he portrayed Fred Wilkes in four episodes of the hit TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
He married second wife Lillian Lehman in 1978, but the marriage only lasted one year.
He had a supporting role alongside Anne Heche on the TV series Men in Trees from 2006 to 2008.