KEY POINTS

  • Sidney Poitier died Thursday evening at age 94
  • He was the first Black man to win the Oscar for best actor for his role in the 1963 film "Lilies of the Field"
  • Poitier's family said in a statement Friday that they are mourning the loss of their "guiding light"

Sidney Poitier's family is grieving following his death earlier this week.

Poitier, the first Black man to win the Oscar for best actor for his role in the 1963 film "Lilies of the Field," died Thursday evening. He was 94. 

After news of the activist's death broke Friday, the Poitier family, through publicist Mara Buxbaum, issued a statement to People about the actor's passing, saying that they were thankful they were able to spend the actor's last day with him.

"There are no words to convey the deep sense of loss and sadness we are feeling right now. We are so grateful he was able to spend his last day surrounded by his family and friends," read the statement.

The statement went on to describe Poitier as not only "a brilliant actor, activist, and a man of incredible grace and moral fortitude," but also "a devoted and loving husband, a supportive and adoring father and a man who always put family first."

The Poitier family said the late patriarch was their "guiding light" who lit up their lives with "infinite love and wonder." They remembered the actor for his "healing" smile, warm hugs and infectious laughter.

"We could always turn to him for wisdom and solace and his absence feels like a giant hole in our family and our hearts," they continued. "Although he is no longer here with us in this realm, his beautiful soul will continue to guide and inspire us. He will live on in us, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren — in every belly laugh, every curious inquiry, every act of compassion and kindness. His legacy will live on in the world, continuing to inspire not only with his incredible body of work, but even more so with his humanity."

The family then expressed their appreciation for the "outpouring of love from around the world" for the late Bahamian-American actor.

"So many have been touched by our dad's extraordinary life, his unwavering sense of decency and respect for his fellow man. His faith in humanity never faltered, so know that for all the love you've shown him, he loved you back," the statement concluded.

Numerous celebrities paid tribute to Poitier following his death, including Denzel Washington. "He was a gentleman and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years," Washington said in a statement to AFP.

President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama also offered emotional tributes to him. Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis said he felt "great sadness" when he learned about Poitier's passing.

Poitier is survived by his wife Joanna Shimkus as well as five daughters: Beverly, Pamela, Sherri, Anika and Sydney. His daughter Gina Poitier died in 2018.

Actor Sidney Poitier was the first Black star to take home the Oscar for best actor Actor Sidney Poitier was the first Black star to take home the Oscar for best actor Photo: AFP / VALERIE MACON