Arack Obama and Oprah Winfrey have paid tribute to Hollywood star Sidney Poitier after he died at the age of 94.
Bahamian-American actor best known for films including In the Heat of the Night, Blackboard Jungle and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – and was the first black person to win a Best Actor Oscar.
Former US President Mr. Obama shared a photo of himself and his wife, Michelle, standing by Poitier after the honored actor was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Mr Obama wrote: “Through her phenomenal roles and prodigious talent, Sidney Poitier embodies dignity and grace, revealing the power of films to bring us together.
“He also opened doors for a generation of actors.
“Michelle and I send our love to his family and fans.”
US talk show host Winfrey posted a photo of the couple happily embracing and added an emotional message, saying: “For me, the biggest fall of ‘Great Trees’ has come: Sidney Poitier.
“It is my honor to love him as a mentor. Friend. Brother. Confidant. Wisdom teacher.
“The utmost, highest regard and admiration for his most splendid, gracious, eloquent life.
“I treasured her. I adored her. She had a huge soul that I will always cherish. Bless the world to Joanna and her beautiful daughters.”
Former tennis world number one and equality activist Billie Jean King reflected on the extraordinary achievements of her career in a post on Twitter, saying: “He was a pioneer in acting and directing and paved the way for many to follow. rest in peace. ,
Actress Reese Witherspoon posted a photo of herself and Poitier on Twitter, saying: “Today we lost a legend. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Sidney Poitier.
“As a longtime fan, I love hearing his incredible stories about how he changed perceptions in Hollywood.
“Their incredible performances are filled with dignity, power, truth and deep humanity.”
Singing legend Diana Ross also offered her condolences to Poitier’s family and shared a black and white photo of her and the actor, saying: “A wonderful, great man, will always be missed.”
Filmmaker and actor Rob Reiner said on Twitter: “To be in the presence of Sydney Poitier was to be in the presence of grace, dignity and humanity. And quite a great actor too. Tearing”
Fellow film director William Friedkin said: “I have lost a dear friend and America has lost one of its greatest actors, Sidney Poitier.”
Star Trek star LeVar Burton spoke of Poitier’s impact on his life, calling him his “North Star and guiding light”.
He continued: “The very hallmark of elegance, eloquence, innate grace and humanity, I have admired and emulated him throughout my life.
“Without Sydney Poitier, quite simply, there would be no LeVar Burton.”
Comedian Kathy Griffin shared a series of photos of herself and Poitier, saying it was “an honorable and unimaginable opportunity” to make Poitier laugh and that she was thinking of her family.
Among those paying tribute were Jeffrey Wright, Whoopi Goldberg and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Bond star Wright said on Twitter, “Sydney Poitier. What a milestone actor. One of his kind. What a handsome, graceful, warm, truly majestic man. RIP, sir. With love.”
Goldberg quoted the lyrics from the song To Sir with Love, which soundtracked Poitier’s 1967 film.
She said on Twitter: “If you wanted the sky I would write in letters a thousand feet high in the sky .. to sir … with love. Sir Sidney Poitier RIP he showed us how to reach the stars.”
Gordon-Levitt described him as “an absolute legend”. One of the greats”.
Star Trek actor George Takei said that Poitier was a “pioneer for whom so many will mourn that he opened the doors of Hollywood.”
Viola Davis described her death as “a big one”.
She added on Instagram: “No words can describe how your work radically changed my life. The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and power you brought to your roles showed us that as black people we matter!!!
“It was an honor for my husband and I to share lunch with you at Spagos. You told us, ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough’!
“I put this quote on my daughter’s wall. Rest easy Mr. Poitier. Thank you! Thank you for leaving a legacy. Let the flights of angels sing to you for your rest.”
The Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Philip Davis, held a press conference during which he reflected on Poitier’s legacy.
He said: “Our whole Bahamas mourns. But when we mourn, we still celebrate the life of a great Bahamian.
“A cultural icon, an actor and film director, civil and human rights activist and a diplomat.
“We admire the man not only because of his great achievements, but also because of who he was.
“His strength of character, his desire to stand out and be counted and the way he plotted and navigated his life’s journey.
“The boy who moved from a tomato farm to the United States to become a waiter, a young man who not only taught himself to read and write, but made words and the expression of thoughts and feelings central to his career.”
Known for his work during the 50s and 60s, Poitier helped pave the way for generations of African-American actors.
Poitier grew up in the Bahamas, which was then a British colony, and returned to America at the age of 15 and worked in low-paying jobs until he later joined the American Negro Theatre, which was founded in Harlem. Was set up as a community project. in 1940.
His first major role came in 1946 in Aristotle’s comedy Lysistrata, but by 1949 he had moved away from theater and into film.
In 1963, he was awarded an Oscar for Lily of the Field, in which he played a Baptist handyman who builds a chapel for a group of Roman Catholic nuns, and became the first black winner of the Best Actor trophy .
The Academy said on Twitter after his death: “Poitier was a barrier breaker and an enduring inspiration who advances American racial dialogue through his art. Poitier’s influence, both on and off screen, has been or will be the influence of few film stars.” “
The actor was awarded an honorary knighthood through his Bahamian heritage in 1974 and received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1995.