- Category : 1914-births
- Type : GE
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Distraction 1
American top athlete who became a character actor in American and European films, after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was a decathlete and football star who was one of the first Black American players in the National Football League in the postwar era. After football, he went on to become a screen actor, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film Spartacus in 1960.
His parents were from New Orleans; his grandmother was a Black Cherokee and his grandfather was a Black Creek. Strode, Kenny Washington, and Jackie Robinson starred on the 1939 UCLA Bruins football team, in which they made up three of the four backfield players. They became famous nationally as "the Gold Dust gang".
When World War II broke out, Strode was drafted at age 27 and soon joined the United States Army Air Corps and spent the war unloading bombs in Guam and the Marianas, as well as playing on the Army football team at March Field in Riverside, California.
Strode and fellow UCLA alumnus Kenny Washington were two of the first African-Americans to play in major college programs and later the modern National Football League, along with Marion Motley and Bill Willis, playing for the Los Angeles Rams in 1946.
Strode's post-war acting career was started when producer Walter Mirisch spotted him wrestling and cast him as an African warrior in The Lion Hunters (1951), one of the Bomba the Jungle Boy series.
Strode was cast in Spartacus (1960) as the Ethiopian gladiator Draba, in which he has to fight Spartacus (played by Kirk Douglas) to the death. Draba wins the contest, but instead of killing Spartacus, he attacks the Roman military commander who paid for the fight. He is killed and his death sparks a gladiator rebellion.
In the late 1960s, he appeared in several episodes of the Ron Ely Tarzan television series. Strode's other television work included a role as the Grand Mogul in the Batman episodes "Marsha, Queen of Diamonds" and "Marsha's Scheme of Diamonds".
In 1966, he landed a major starring role as a soldier of fortune and expert archer in The Professionals, a major box-office success that established him as a recognizable star.
He based himself in Europe from 1968 to 1971. Strode was in Che! (1969) and supported Terence Hill and Bud Spencer in Boot Hill (1969) shot in Italy, along with The Italian Connection (1972).
His first wife was Princess Luukialuana Kalaeloa (a.k.a. Luana Strode), a distant relative of Liliuokalani, the last queen of Hawaii. With her he had a son, Kalai (a.k.a. Kalaeloa), in 1946, and a daughter, June. They were married until her death in 1980 due to Parkinson's disease. In 1982 at the age of 68, he wed 35-year-old Tina Tompson, and they remained married until his death from lung cancer on 31 December 1994 in Glendora, California, aged 80.