Howard Rollins Unveiling at Senator Theater
The Howard E. Rollins, Jr. Foundation hosted the official unveiling
of actor and Baltimore native, Howard E. Rollins, Jr. From his
home in East Baltimore, to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood,
Rollins seemed destined for stardom. Despite his humble beginnings,
Rollins attended Towson [State College] and went on to become
an accomplished, Academy Award-nominated actor for his role as
"Coalhouse Walker, Jr." in EL Doctorow's epic Ragtime.
Other roles followed, including that of "Virgil
Tibbs" in In The Heat Of The Night, with veteran actor Carroll
O'Connor. Rollin's life was not without problems, however. He
was arrested on drug charges, an addiction that lasted several
years. According to his sister, Hattie Fields, "The last time
Howard took drugs was the last time. He admitted that he was tired;
and he just stopped."
His career stalled, but not his popularity. He
remains a star in the neighborhood he once called home. Rollins
died in 1996 of complications of lymphoma. The Rollins family
and the Foundation gathered on October 26, 2006, at Baltimore's
venerable Senator Theater to honor him with a wax likeness.
After a documentary, An Evening With Howard, produced
by Rollins' longtime friend and mentor, Steve Yeager; after the
reception and speeches, the moment of the unveiling arrived.
In the center of the Senator Theater lobby, the
cloaked figure of Rollins was finally unveiled. Rollins' mother,
Ruth, was visibly moved at the wax likeness of her son. "That's
my son," she remarked.
The family and guests crowded around the figure, posing for pictures;
congratulating Dr. Joanne Martin, for the wonderful job the Museum
did in creating the likeness.
The Howard Rollins wax figure is now on display
at The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum, among such greats
as Langston Hughes.
Photographed from the top left: The Rollins figure,
cloaked; before the unveiling, Dr. Martin with Hattie Fields,
Rollins' sister; Rollins' nephew, with Ruth Rollins; Rollins'
mother, visibly moved; Ruth Rollins, after the unveiling, helped
to her seat by members of her family; Hattie Fields, John Waters
and the Rollins figure; Howard Rollins and Dr. Martin; Steve Yeager,
who produced the Rollins documentary, and Howard; Honorary Board
Member Kweisi Mfume and Hattie Fields; Ruth Rollins, seated and
Dr. Martin; John Waters, the evening's keynote speaker and Dr.
Martin; Howard Rollins, unveiled; the signage and a poster, featuring
the cast of Ragtime.