LaTour, Nick

Known by his stage name, Nick LaTour (1928-2011) was an actor and civil rights activist who performed in films, television shows, and stage productions for more than 60 years. He was the son of noted civil rights leader Edgar Daniel “E. D.” Nixon Sr.

Edgar Daniel Nixon Jr. was born on August 1, 1928, in Montgomery, Montgomery County, to Pullman porter and civil rights activist E. D. Nixon Sr. and his first wife, Alease Curry Nixon. He was their only child. Throughout his childhood, Nixon was immersed in the civil rights activities of his parents and their associates. Notably, his father posted bail for Rosa Parks after her arrest on a Montgomery city bus for refusing to give her seat to a white person. His talent as a singer and performer was evident at a young age as a student at Loveless Elementary School and the Snow Hill Institute in Pine Apple, Wilcox County. He graduated from high school at age 15, and the following year he headed to New York City to pursue a career in acting. Now going by the stage name Nick LaTour, he spent next several decades performing in nightclubs and with touring musical companies in the United States and Canada.

After serving in the U.S. Army, in 1950 LaTour began attending Mexico City College in Mexico, earning a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. He then returned to New York City and continued performing, notably appearing in a well-reviewed role in the off-Broadway production of Heaven and Hell’s Agreement by actor and playwright J. E. Gaines (known on stage and screen as Sonny Jim Gaines). LaTour made his Broadway debut in 1974 in Neil Simon’s play God’s Favorite, based on the Book of Job. In 1975, he toured Europe in the musical Jericho-Jim Crow, a production based on civil rights themes by poet, novelist, and playwright Langston Hughes.

In 1976, LaTour moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue a screen-acting career. He soon gained a reputation as a solid character actor, with guest appearances on some of the top network television shows over the next 30 years. They included The Jeffersons, Quincy, M.E., and Good Times in the 1970s, Highway to Heaven and In the Heat of the Night in the 1980s, Martin, Murder, She Wrote, ER, and Seinfeld in the 1990s, and Touched by an Angel, The District, and The Tracy Morgan Show in the 2000s. In addition to his television career, LaTour appeared in several big-budget films, including Deep Cover, Don Juan DeMarco, and Jingle All the Way. In February 2000, the Black Academy of Arts and Letters produced LaTour’s Spirit in the Wind, a one-man show about his acting career at the Dallas Convention Center Theatre Complex. In 2002, he appeared in The Rosa Parks Story, a film starring Angela Bassett in the title role. That same year, he narrated the film Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks (2002), produced through the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s (SPLC) Learning for Justice program. The following year, he narrated the documentary Mighty Times: The Children’s March, released in 2004. Co-produced by the SPLC and HBO, it focuses on the 1963 “Children’s Crusade” civil rights action in Birmingham, Jefferson County, and won an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2005.

In May 1997, LaTour returned to Montgomery to participate in a benefit performance of playwright Lee Breuer’s Oedipus at Colonus at Alabama State University (ASU). The play is a retelling of a work by ancient Greek playwright Sophocles in the form of a musical set in a Black Pentecostal church. The production aimed to raise funds for drama scholarships at ASU, and LaTour noted that he joined the production because he had had few opportunities to pursue drama in Alabama as a youth. He often returned to Alabama to speak with schoolchildren about his life experiences. Committed to social justice throughout his life, LaTour founded the E. D. Nixon Foundation, in honor of his father, to provide funding for afterschool programs. LaTour died on February 28, 2011, at his home in Los Angeles. His ashes were spread in the Pacific Ocean at a ceremony on May 12.

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