LOS ANGELES (CBS LA/CNN) — Sidney Poitier, whose elegant bearing and principled onscreen characters made him Hollywood’s first Black movie star and the first Black man to win the best actor Oscar, has died. He was 94.

Clint Watson, press secretary for the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, confirmed that Poitier died Thursday evening.

Poitier overcame an impoverished background in the Bahamas and a thick island accent to rise to the top of his profession at a time when prominent roles for Black actors were rare. He won the Oscar for 1963’s “Lilies of the Field,” in which he played an itinerant laborer who helps a group of White nuns build a chapel.

Many of his best-known films explored racial tensions as Americans were grappling with social changes wrought by the civil rights movement. In 1967 alone, he appeared as a Philadelphia detective fighting bigotry in small-town Mississippi in “In the Heat of the Night” and a doctor who wins over his White fiancée’s skeptical parents in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

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