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Jim Kelly, a martial artist famous for his role in the 1973 Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon, died on Saturday of cancer, his ex-wife Marilyn Dishman told the Associated Press.
“Yesterday, June 29, 2013, James Milton Kelly, better known as Jim Kelly, the Karate expert, actor, my first husband and Sabrena Kelly-Lewis‘s biological father died,” Dishman wrote in a Facebook note about his passing. “Sabrena needs all of your good thoughts and prayers. This is a difficult situation to process. Even I am having trouble processing it. Like his mother, there will be no service!”
Kelly starred in numerous martial arts films in the 1970’s, including Black Belt Jones, Three the Hard Way and Black Samurai. He later left acting and became a professional tennis player. He appeared in a commercial with NBA star LeBron James in 2004.
“I never left the movie business,” Kelly told the LA Times in 2010. “It’s just that after a certain point, I didn’t get the type of projects that I wanted to do. I still get at least three scripts per year, but most of them don’t put forth a positive image. There’s nothing I really want to do, so I don’t do it. If it happens, it happens, but if not, I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished.”
Kelly, who was born in May 1946, was the second cousin of baseball star Willie Mays. He was a talented natural athlete who grew up in Kentucky and starred in football, baseball and track teams.
In 1971, he won four major martial arts championships in a row and became a star in the karate world. Producer Fred Weintraub hired him for a small role in 1973’s Enter The Dragon and teamed with the actor again for Black Belt Jones.
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