Sidney Poitier

Los Angeles, CA
Actor; Director (film)
Humanities and Arts
Performing Arts


Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE, is an actor, director, author, and diplomat. Elected 2005 (IV:5). He made his motion picture debut in Joseph Mankiewicz's "No Way Out," garnered critical acclaim and national recognition in "Blackboard Jungle," received his first Academy Award nomination for "The Defiant Ones" in 1959, and won the coveted Oscar, in 1963, for 'Best Actor' for his performance in "Lilies of the Field." Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. The significance of this achievement was later bolstered in 1967 when he starred in three successful films: To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night; and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, making him the top box-office star of that year. Poitier has also directed a number of popular movies, such as A Piece of the Action, Uptown Saturday Night, Let's Do It Again (with friend Bill Cosby) and Stir Crazy (starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder). From 1997 to 2007, Poitier held a dual diplomatic appointment, serving as the Ambassador to Japan and the Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), both posts representing the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. Poitier has received many honors and awards; the most meaningful being the Knighthood awarded to him by H. M. Queen Elizabeth II in 1968 and The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America's highest civilian honor, awarded to him by President Barack Obama in 2009. He has received the BAFTA Award, three Golden Globe Awards, an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award; the Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award; The Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award; 5 NAACP Image Awards; 2 Golden Bear Awards from the Berlin Film Festival; numerous Emmy Nominations and a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for The Measure of a Man. In 2002, Poitier was presented with a second Oscar for "his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence." He has received honorary doctorates from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Miami, and New York University.

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