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‘Heat of the Night’ actor Howard Rollins dies

December 9, 1996 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Howard Rollins, the Oscar-nominated actor who was bounced from the TV series ``In the Heat of the Night″ in 1993 because of his drug use, has died at 46, his agent said Monday.

Larry Bloustein, a spokesman for the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles, would not disclose the cause and circumstances of Rollins’ death. He said only that the actor died on Sunday in New York.

In ``The Heat of the Night,″ Rollins starred opposite Carroll O’Connor as a black detective from Philadelphia working in a racially volatile Southern town.

Rollins also had roles in the movies ``A Soldier’s Story″ in 1984 and ``Ragtime″ in 1981. He was nominated for an Academy Award for ``Ragtime,″ in which he played Coalhouse Walker, a proud piano teacher who becomes a vengeful revolutionary.

It was the second death of a star associated with ``In the Heat of the Night.″ O’Connor’s son, Hugh O’Connor, who played a law officer on the show, committed suicide in 1995 at age 33 _ a death his father blamed on his son’s 16-year battle with drugs.

In a statement Monday, O’Connor said he was ``deeply saddened by Howard’s death. He was a friend who we loved dearly.″

``In the Heat of the Night,″ based on the 1967 movie about a white Mississippi police chief who teams up with a black detective from the North, ran on television from 1988 to 1994, first on NBC, then on CBS.

Rollins’ drug use repeatedly got him into legal trouble, and he was written out of the series after the 1992-93 season. Carl Weathers was added to the cast.

In 1993, Rollins spent a month in jail for driving under the influence and reckless driving.

He pleaded guilty in 1992 to driving under the influence of a tranquilizer. He was sentenced to two days in jail and fined $1,000, and lost his driver’s license. In 1988, Rollins pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and cocaine possession in Louisiana.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.