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Charles Fuller, Pulitzer-Winning, Oscar-Nominated ‘A Soldier’s Play’ Playwright, Dies at 83

The play was adapted into the 1984 film ”A Soldier’s Story“ starring Howard E. Rollins Jr., Denzel Washington and David Alan Grier

Charles Fuller, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning play “A Soldier’s Play” was adapted into Best Picture Oscar nominee “A Soldier’s Story,” has died at age 83.

Fuller died of natural causes on Monday in Toronto, his wife, Claire Prieto-Fuller, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Fuller’s play about the racially motivated murder of a Black sergeant on an Army post in Louisiana during World War II won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1982. He wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Norman Jewison’s 1984 film “A Soldier’s Story.” The film, which starred Howard E. Rollins Jr., Denzel Washington, David Alan Grier and Robert Townsend, was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Adolph Caesar.

A 2020 Broadway run earned seven Tony nominations, winning Best Revival and Featured Actor award for Grier as Sergeant Vernon C. Waters. Grier had played Corporal Cobb in the 1984 film and was a replacement for the role of Private C.J. Memphis in a 1982 stage production.

Grier, who also starred paid tribute to Fuller on Twitter, writing, “Rest n Peace Charles Fuller, author of A Soldiers Play and the Oscar nominated screenplay of A Soldiers Story. Pulitzer Prize recipient and amazing and wonderful artist. It has been my greatest honor to perform his words on both stage and screen, his genius will be missed.”

Neil Schwary, whose father was producer Ronald L. Schwary, also remembered Fuller on Twitter, writing, “My father was nominated for Best Picture for producing the film, “A Soldier’s Story,” written by Charles Fuller and based on his play, “A Soldier’s Play.” Was amazing to see Fuller’s work go on to win a Tony and other accolades many years later.”

Fuller was born March 5, 1939, in Philadelphia. He attended nearby Villanova University and later studied at La Salle University. He joined the Army in 1959, and served in Japan and South Korea.

His first play, “The Perfect Party,” debuted at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1969. His big break came with 1976’s “The Brownsville Raid,” about Black soldiers who were dishonorably discharged in 1906 after being falsely accused of murder and only exonerated decades later.

Fuller drew on his own military experience again for “A Soldier’s Play.” In 1988, he told Newsday that he wrote about the armed forces because, “historically, it’s the only place where Black men have risen equal to white men.”

He adapted his 1980 play “Zooman and the Sing” for TV in 1995. A young Chadwick Boseman played the title role on stage in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Fuller also wrote “The Sky Is Gray” for PBS in 1980 and “A Gathering of Old Men” for CBS in 1987.

In addition to his wife, Fuller is survived by his son, David, a daughter-in-law, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.