The actor’s management team confirmed that Williams died Friday in Los Angeles, from colon cancer.
Recommended by Bill Cosby to producer Aaron Spelling for the role of Lincoln “Linc” Hayes, Williams played the character for 123 episodes over five seasons, from 1968-1973. Created by Bud Ruskin, the crime drama followed young adults (played by Williams, Peggy Lipton and Michael Cole) who had run-ins with the law, but later became police officers under the tutelage of Capt. Adam Greer (played by Tige Andrews). The show highlighted the era’s counterculture, often incorporating timely issues like anti-war protests, drug addiction and racism, as the squad visited schools, prisons and gangs throughout their quests to catch bad guys.
Linc “was a very different role for an African-American and a wonderful lead character that a lot of youngsters, Black and white, and principally African-American youngsters, could identify with,” Williams told the Los Angeles Times in a 1995 interview.
Despite walking away from the role to pursue other opportunities, Williams did play the character once more in the 1979 TV-movie The Return of Mod Squad. Afterward, he guest-starred on other TV series including Hill Street Blues, T.J. Hooker, The Cosby Show, Miami Vice, Twin Peaks, Walker Texas Ranger, Burn Notice, Empire, Justified and more.
As for his film career, some of his most notable credits include Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Reindeer Games, The General’s Daughter, Half Baked and Tales From the Hood.