Thomas Jefferson Byrd, a longtime collaborator of Spike Lee, was shot and killed in Atlanta on Saturday.
The Georgia native appeared in eight of Lee’s films, beginning with 1995’s Clockers. He also had roles in Girl 6, Get On the Bus, He Got Game, Bamboozled, Red Hook Summer, Sweet Blood of Jesus, and Chi-Raq.
Aside from his work with Lee, Byrd also appeared in such films as Antoine Fuqua’s Brooklyn’s Finest, Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles biopic Ray, and F. Gary Gray’s Set It Off. In 2003, he received a Tony Award nomination for for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
In an Instagram post, Lee wrote, “I’m so sad to announce the tragic murder of our beloved brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd last night in Atlanta, Georgia. Tom is my guy.” He proceeded to share a number of clips of Byrd from his films, which you can see below.
In his own tribute, Get On the Bus co-star Wendell Pierce described Byrd as “an actor in the unofficial repertory company of Spike Lee movies. What Joseph Cotton was to Orson Welles, Byrd was for Spike. The ‘everyman’ character actor. He was a part of the Black Arts Renaissance of Fort Greene in the 80s.”
According to Variety, the Atlanta Police Department has launched a homicide investigation into the circumstances surrounding Byrd’s death. As of publication, there was no known suspect.
Thomas Jefferson Byrd, was an actor in the unofficial repertory company of Spike Lee movies. What Joseph Cotton was to Orson Welles, Byrd was for Spike. The “everyman” character actor. He was a part of the Black Arts Renaissance of Fort Greene in the 80s. pic.twitter.com/oFPMKIKOro
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) October 4, 2020
Oh no!!! 2020! Whaaattt!!! Loved working with you Byrd. What a fine actor you were. So sorry your life ended this way. Praying for your family. So very sorry.💔💔💛💛💛https://t.co/R9YxP4gNW4
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) October 4, 2020