Howard E. Rollins, Jr. was born on October 17, 1950 in Baltimore Maryland. The youngest of four children from a blue-collar family, Rollins graduated from Towson State College and was a leading actor since the mid-70's. Performing on TV, as well as movies and stage, Rollins earned an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the daytime series Another World. The actor also garnered an Oscar nomination for his role in 1981's Ragtime. However, he is probably best remembered for his role as Virgil Tibbs on the long-running TV series In The Heat of the Night (1988-95). The 46-year-old Rollins died on December 8, 1996 from complications with lymphoma. Rollins battled with substance abuse for many years before his untimely death.