Home Playwright Samm-Art Williams Dies at 78 | Playbill

Obituaries Home Playwright Samm-Art Williams Dies at 78

Mr. Williams passed away peacefully, just days before previews begin for the upcoming Broadway revival of Home.

Samm-Art Williams—actor, director, and Tony-nominated playwright of Home—died peacefully in Burgaw, North Carolina the morning of May 13. He was 78 years old. The news was shared by his family, who sent in a statement reading, "Mr. Williams’ contributions to American theatre and television will live on but he will be greatly missed."

News of Mr. Williams' passing comes just days before the Broadway revival of Home begins previews (produced by Roundabout Theatre Company). The first performance is set for May 17 ahead of a June 5 opening night.  

Mr. Williams was born January 20, 1946 to Samuel and Valdosia Williams in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (according to his cousin Carol Brown). He grew up in Burgaw, and his mother, a high school English and drama teacher, encouraged him to read "everything from Langston Hughes to Edgar Allan Poe," Mr. Williams told Roundabout in 2021. 

He went on to study political science and psychology at Morgan Stage University. After graduating, Mr. Williams moved to Philadelphia, and began acting with the Freedom Theatre. He later moved to New York to pursue writing, and worked as an actor and playwright with the Negro Ensemble Company. 

In addition to Home, Mr. Williams' plays include Welcome to Black RiverFriendsThe Waiting Room, and more. Home, Mr. Williams' most well-known work, was originally produced by the Negro Ensemble Company Off-Broadway. The subsequent Broadway transfer opened May 7, 1980 and closed January 4, 1981. Home received numerous accolades, including Tony nominations for Best Play and Best Actor for Charles Brown, an Outer Critics Circle Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the North Carolina Governor's Award.

Mr. Williams also worked in film and TV, with acting credits including Cook and Peary: The Race to the Pole and the 1986 film adaptation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He was an executive producer, story editor, and writer on a number of TV shows, including Frank's Place (which earned him an Emmy nomination), The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Martin. He has been the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Playwriting, and is an inductee in the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

Mr. Williams is survived by five cousins, including Carol Brown. 

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