Before Passing, “King” Actor Paul Winfield Proudly Lived ‘Secret Life’ Most Were Unaware Of

Paul Winfield is the actor that most of us Old Schoolers are very familiar with. He’s best known for his phenomenal work as Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1978 miniseries, King, and also for his portrayal of a Louisiana sharecropper and family man in the 1972 film, Sounder. He’s starred in many other films and TV roles such as Roots: The Next Generation, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, the TV shows Julia, 227, and many more, but his most groundbreaking performances for his career were the first two that we mentioned.

Winfield also became known for his trademark voice in his voiceover works throughout the years.

There was one aspect of his life that he had not become known for, at least not publicly. And it’s something that we wanted to share with our ILOSM fam’ because we think there is a lot we can all learn from Paul Winfield’s story. That aspect is he was an openly gay man who was in a long term relationship with his partner, Charles Gillan, Jr. for 30 years up until Gillan’s death in 2002.

This is probably a shock to many because Winfield lived most of his public years during eras where folks didn’t often discuss these things, as it wasn’t deemed an “appropriate” topic of public discussion. We’re not sure of Winfield’s exact reason for keeping his sexuality a secret in public, but according to his close friends such as his friend, actor/producer Jack Larson, who described Winfield as “openly gay in his life, if not the media,” Winfield was very open and proud of who he was.

Winfield lived with his Sounder co-star, Cicely Tyson, for about a year and a half in the mid 70’s. In 1975 he moved from Hollywood, CA to San Francisco, CA (which back then became known as a heavily populated gay city). In a 1990 People Magazine interview Winfield said that San Francisco was a place where “a lot of people go to find themselves. There’s a lot of introspection, a lot of social and sexual interpersonal experimentation.” Some people who knew him, took that interview as him publicly alluding to what they knew for a fact already, that he was gay and indirectly used that opportunity to test the waters of “coming out” even though it was subliminal.

If Paul Winfield would have been at the peak of his career now in 2020, would he have gotten the same type of love Caitlyn Jenner has received for her transition into a transgender woman? We don’t know, but what we do know is that the world is much more open and accepting of homosexuality and tolerance is at an all time high now, which it should be in my humble opinion. There is no reason why Winfield should have feared damaging his career if he would have publicly let the world know who he really was, if he was in fact yearning to come forward about his reported sexuality and gender affiliation publicly.

Now that we know Paul Winfield –an incredible actor– was gay, does that change our perception of the actor we see in him? If it does, we need to do some soul searching within ourselves to try and find better understanding of why we allow differences within another person to tarnish the years of respect and admiration we already had for him as an actor. Just food for thought ILOSM family.

The sad thing is that many people don’t know that Winfield actually passed away on March 7, 2004 –two years after his partner died. May he continue to rest peacefully.

Source & Credit: iloveoldschoolmusic.com

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