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R.I.P. Robert Guillaume

Emmy Award-winning actor Robert Guillaume, best known as the title character in the TV sitcom “Benson” died Tuesday. He was 89.

Emmy Award-winning actor Robert Guillaume, best known as the title character in the TV sitcom “Benson” died Tuesday. He was 89.

Born Robert Peter Williams; (November 30, 1927 – October 24, 2017) in St. Louis, Missouri, is known for his role as Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night and as Benson on the groundbreaking TV series Soap and the spin-off Benson, as well as for voicing the mandrill Rafiki in The Lion King. He studied at St. louis University and Washington University and served in the United States Army before pursuing an acting career. He adopted the surname “Guillaume,” French for William, as his stage name.

A veteran of both stage and screen and beloved by generations with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. My best memory of his work was in the film Lean on Me as Dr. Frank Napier. I still recite his best line from that film from time to time,

“A formal apology for your treatment of Mrs. Elliott and Darnell and for your vicious and thoughtless insults to the women of this community! You will kow tow. You will step and fetch! [slams briefcase shut] Get used to it! It’s the WAY OF THE WORLD! If you’re so hot on discipline, then goddammit [pounds on briefcase] Start by accepting mine because contrary to popular opinion, I’m the head nigga in charge! [He grabs his briefcase and heads for the door]”, – works fantastic in any work meeting scenario.

His wife Donna Brown Guillaume told the Associated Press he died at their Los Angeles home of complications of prostate cancer.

Guillaume often played acerbic, dry-witted, but ultimately lovable characters like the butler Benson Du Bois, which he created on the 1977 series “Soap,” before his character was spun off in 1979. Guillaume won Emmys both for “Soap” (as supporting actor) and “Benson” (as lead actor).

He is survived by his second wife, TV producer Donna Brown Guillaume; one son (another died in 1990); and three daughters.

We will miss his charm and wit and always keep him and his family in our hearts.


A misanthropic fiction writer and pop culture killer, originally from NYC as well loiterer of the Philadelphia area. The author of a handful of spoken word albums. Member of the Jade Palace Guard; a collective of underground lo-fi artists. Creator and author of HAINESVILLE. Currently residing in Tucson, AZ.

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