Thomas Jefferson Byrd Dead: Actor in Spike Lee Films Murdered in Atlanta

Thomas Jefferson Byrd

Instagram Thomas Jefferson Byrd

Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd was murdered on Saturday night in Atlanta, Georgia, director Spike Lee announced on Instagram on Sunday. The director, who’d worked with Byrd on many movies, wrote, “I’m So Sad To Announce The Tragic Murder Of Our Beloved Brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd Last Night In Atlanta,Georgia. … May We All Wish Condolences And Blessings To His Family. Rest In Peace Brother Byrd.”


1. Officials Said He Died of Multiple Gunshot Wounds to the Back & an Investigation Is Ongoing

TMZ reported that the Atlanta Police Department responded to a call reporting an injured person at 1:45 a.m. According to the outlet, Byrd was found with multiple gunshot wounds to his back and was unresponsive. Emergency responders pronounced him dead. An investigation is ongoing, the outlet adds.

Heavy reached out to the Atlanta Police Department for more information but did not immediately hear back.


2. Byrd Was Best Known for His Roles in Many Spike Lee Films, Including ‘Clockers’ & ‘Red Hook Summer’

Byrd was born in Georgia and attended Morris Brown College in Atlanta, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education, Pop Culture reported. He then attended the California Institute of the Arts where he received a master’s degree in dance. Byrd worked as an actor primarily in Spike Lee films such as Clockers, Bamboozled, Get on the Bus and Red Hook Summer.

In Spike Lee’s post announcing Byrd’s death, he listed the numerous movies he’d made that Byrd had appeared in: “Tom Is My Guy,Here Below You See Him As The Frightening Character Errol Barnes In CLOCKERS. Brother Byrd Also Did His Thang In My Joints- CHI-RAQ,SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS, RED HOOK SUMMER,BAMBOOZLED,HE GOT GAME,GET ON THE BUS,GIRL 6 And CLOCKERS.” Lee added in a comment, “Also Stokely-Nola’s Father In The Netflix SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT Series.”

He then posted two of his favorite scenes from Clockers involving Byrd, one of which actually shows Byrd’s character getting shot in the chest.


3. Byrd, Who Was Born & Raised in Georgia, Also Appeared in Various TV Shows & Regional Theater Plays


Metro Scene features "Trouble In Mind"Marvin Jackson interviews actors E Faye Butler, Marty Lodge, Thomas Jefferson Byrd who discuss their roles and the theme of the Alice Childress play "Trouble in Mind," performed in 2011 at Arena Stage in Washington, DC.2012-11-09T07:06:15Z

At the same time as his work in multiple Spike Lee films, Byrd pursued a career in theater, appearing in various productions. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play in 2003 for his role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” He also appeared in the award-winning “Spunk” with the San Diego Repertory Theater, according to his IMDB profile.

Byrd also appeared in a few TV shows, with the first credit coming in 1993 for his role as Louis Arthur in In the Heat of the Night. He also had roles in Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Mama Flora’s Family. He is also set to appear in the upcoming film Freedom’s Path, which is currently in post-production, according to IMDB.


4. Byrd Was Frequently Singled Out for Praise by Critics for His Theater Roles

Byrd appears in many reviews of theater plays by critics, where he is often pointed out and praised for his performances. In a 2003 article by Nasser Metcalfe about “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Metcalfe writes of Byrd: “Among the supporting cast, Thomas Jefferson Byrd is a standout as Toledo. As a veteran of stage and screen, Byrd is able to establish an inherent connection to the material that allows him to make every moment full and every line ring with truth and conviction.”

In a review of “Spunk” by the Los Angeles Times, Byrd’s performance is described as bringing “a ragged edge of danger” to his character. Another review of “Spunk” described his role: “[His] rubber limbs carry him gracefully from whip-wielding philanderer to ‘puffin’ and bluffin” gigolo in the spoofy, high-energy ‘Story in Harlem Slang.'”

Leo Weekly described his role in “Gem of the Ocean” as “engaging” and called the play the “best theatrical offering of the season.”


5. Tributes Poured in After Spike Lee Broke the News of His Death

Many people took to Spike Lee’s post to share tributes and express their shock at the news. One fan wrote, “What???? Damn.. I just watched Set It Off the other day…” Another added, “So tragic. His monologue in Clockers with Meki Pheif still gives me chills everytime I watch it. Truly talented actor.” One person said, “You have got to be kidding me. I can’t RIP not one more time this year.”

On Twitter, actor and comedian Jay Washington posted a tribute:

Brandon Caldwell of Radio One Houston wrote: “long live the art created by thomas jefferson byrd, a captivating character actor in spike lee films and famously, the antagonist who helped set the plot of set it off in motion. ‘IF YOU DON’T WANNA WORK FOR LUTHERS!’ a tragedy he was murdered in Atlanta.”

Another fan added, “Saddened to hear about the tragic loss of such a gifted actor: Thomas Jefferson Byrd. I’ve been a huge fan of his for years. Sending my condolences to his family and friends.”

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