Rockne Tarkington, a stage, film and television actor who broke racial barriers in Hollywood, died on April 5, 2015, at the age of 83. The cause of death was not disclosed, and he passed away in his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Rockne Tarkington was best known for his roles in The Ice Pirates (1984), Wyatt Earp (1994), and The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968-1970). He was also the first credited black actor to appear on The Andy Griffith Show (1967).
A Career That Spanned Genres and Decades
Rockne Tarkington was born on July 15, 1931, in Junction City, Kansas. He started his career as a stage actor, and made his film debut in Soldier in the Rain (1963), alongside Steve McQueen and Jackie Gleason. He went on to appear in more than 60 films and television shows, ranging from westerns to sci-fi to comedy. He worked with stars such as James Earl Jones, Robert Urich, Bruce Lee, and Redd Foxx.
Some of his notable film credits include The Great White Hope (1970), Black Samson (1974), The Ice Pirates (1984), and Death Before Dishonor (1987). He also starred in several blaxploitation films, such as Melinda (1972), The No Mercy Man (1973), and Zebra Force (1976).
On television, he guest-starred in popular shows such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, Bewitched, MacGyver, and many others. He also had recurring roles on Tarzan, Matt Houston, and The Redd Foxx Show. He played Elihu Morgan, a shipwrecked sailor, on Danger Island, a segment of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, a children’s show produced by Hanna-Barbera.
A Pioneer for Black Actors in Hollywood
Rockne Tarkington was one of the first black actors to break into mainstream Hollywood, and paved the way for future generations of black performers. He was the first credited black actor to appear on The Andy Griffith Show, playing a football player named Flip Conroy in the episode “Opie’s Piano Lesson”. He was also the original choice to play Williams, a martial artist, in Enter the Dragon (1973), but was replaced by Jim Kelly shortly before filming began.
Rockne Tarkington was not afraid to challenge stereotypes and conventions, and often played strong, independent, and heroic characters. He also used his platform to advocate for social justice and civil rights. He was a supporter of the NAACP and the Black Panthers, and participated in several marches and rallies.
A Life That Was Full of Love and Faith
Rockne Tarkington was married twice, first to actress Joan Blackman from 1968 to 1970, and then to songwriter Iva Anita Poree from 1982 until his death. He had two sons, Rockne Jr. and William. He lived in Los Angeles for most of his career, but moved back to Kansas in the 1990s to take care of his mother. He later relocated to Colorado Springs, where he spent his final years.
Rockne Tarkington was a devout Mormon, and converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after seeing a television commercial. He was active in his local congregation and shared his testimony with others. He also enjoyed reading, writing, painting, and gardening.
Rockne Tarkington Cause of Death: Remembering the Trailblazing Actor is an article that pays tribute to the life and legacy of Rockne Tarkington, who was a stage, film and television actor who broke racial barriers in Hollywood. Rockne Tarkington died on April 5, 2015, at the age of 83, and the cause of death was not disclosed. He was best known for his roles in The Ice Pirates, Wyatt Earp, and The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. He was also the first credited black actor to appear on The Andy Griffith Show. He was a pioneer for black actors in Hollywood, and a supporter of social justice and civil rights. He was married twice, had two sons, and was a devout Mormon.