Surrounded by close family at his bedside actor Robert Guillaume passed away at age 89 of prostate cancer.
Guillaume became the first black actor to win comedy at the Emmys for playing the beloved lieutenant governor Benson DuBois on the hit show Benson. Guillaume was born Robert Peter Williams and adopted the stage name Robert Guillaume for its sophisticated French sound as he told Tavis Smiley in 2014. “I found out who I was, Robert Guillaume, Robert Williams, whatever. I found out who I was through acting, and through being Robert Guillaume, I found out how to act. And it was something that satisfied me, and I don’t think one ever gets enough of that. I’m sort of addicted to the notion that I have something to say.”
Guillaume’s career was reignited after his role as the eccentric mandrill Rafiki in The Lion King. He suffered a mild stroke in 1999 and he slowed down a bit but always kept working as opportunities presented themselves. Guillaume is survived by four children, all of whom had spent time visiting with their father in his final weeks, his wife Donna Guillaume said.