Carl Gordon dies at 78; actor played the father on TV’s ‘Roc’

Carl Gordon, who despite a late start on an acting career became a well-known presence on stage and television, has died. He was 78.

Gordon died July 20 at his home in Jetersville, Va., of non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said his wife, Jacqueline Alston-Gordon.

Gordon was best known for his role in “Roc,” a situation comedy about an African American working-class family in Baltimore that ran on Fox from 1991-94.

Gordon played Andrew Emerson, the father of sanitation worker Roc Emerson, who was played by Charles S. Dutton.

Gordon, Sutton and fellow “Roc” co-star Rocky Carroll were in the Broadway cast of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Piano Lesson” in 1990. He also appeared in “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death” in 1971 and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in 2003.

His film roles included “The Brother From Another Planet” in 1984, and his television roles included “The Practice” in 1998, “JAG” in 2002 and “Law & Order” in 2003.

He was born Rufus Carl Gordon Jr. on Jan. 20, 1932, in Goochland, Va. Gordon grew up in Brooklyn, served in the Air Force from 1951 to 1955 and attended Brooklyn College. He was in his 30s and desperate for a fresh start when he turned to acting.

“After two failed marriages, I didn’t like the way my life was headed,” he told the Tennessee Tribune in 2005. “I came home from work one evening, crying and upset.” He said a voice within him said to “try acting.”

In addition to his wife, he is survived by five daughters, a son, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.