Bidding farewell to Robert Guillaume, 89

Robert Guillaume

Actor Robert Guillaume, best known for his title role in the TV series Benson, playing Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night and being the voice of Rafiki in 1994’s Disney new classic The Lion King died on Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89 years-old.

Guillaume had a career that spanned more than 50 years across all media.  He won two Emmys for his character Benson DuBois in two separate shows, Soap in 1979 and in spin-off Benson in 1985.  He also won a Grammy Award in 1995 for his spoken word performance of an audiobook version of The Lion King. And he was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls.

Guillaume was born in St. Louis, Missouri, where his name was actually Robert Williams.  He dubbed himself Robert Guillaume after he left college at St. Louis University and Washington University, as well as a stint in the army when he left to pursue his acting dreams.

He got his start in the theater and soon made his way to television where he guest starred on many shows including Good Times, The Jeffersons, All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Saved By The Bell: The College Years and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and A Different World.

He became a series regular in 1977 on the ABC series Soap, playing Benson, a butler and continued the role in a spin-off series, Benson until 1986.

He later landed the role of television executive Isaac Jaffe on Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night in 1998.

Guillaume married second wife Donna in 1986.

CNN spoke with her who said he had been battling prostate cancer and described that he died peacefully and surrounded by his family and friends which includes his four surviving children.

“He kinda went the way everyone wishes they could, surrounded by love and in his sleep,” Guillaume said. “He was a good father and a good husband.” she added. “He was a great, great person.”

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.