'Roots' cinematographer Joseph Wilcots dies

Trailblazer was first African American to join DP guild

Joseph M. Wilcots, a trailblazing African-American cinematographer whose credits include the landmark miniseries "Roots," died Dec. 30 at at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, Calif., of complications from a stroke, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was 70.

The first African American to join the International Cinematographers Guild -- in 1967 -- Wilcots worked on crews for TV series such as "The FBI" and "Mission: Impossible" and on films such as "The Learning Tree," "The Last Picture Show," "The Cowboys" and "Lady Sings the Blues." As a director of photography, he achieved his greatest acclaim for "Roots," the 1977 ratings phenomenon based on Alex Haley's best-selling epic family saga.

Among Wilcots' other credits as a cinematographer are "Bill Cosby: Himself," "Where the Red Fern Grows: Part 2" and the TV series "Matlock," "Palmerstown, U.S.A." and "Brewster Place." He also worked as a cinematographer, photographer, producer, director and editor on Michael Jackson's music videos and tours.

A celebration of Wilcots' life is pending.
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