Avon Long

Avon Long
Avon Long 1943.JPG
Long in 1943.
Born (1910-06-18)June 18, 1910
Baltimore, Maryland
Died February 15, 1984(1984-02-15) (aged 73)
New York City
Years active 1932–1984

Avon Long (June 18, 1910 – February 15, 1984) was an American Broadway actor and singer.


Long was born in Baltimore, Maryland.[1] He attended Frederick Douglass High School, where he was especially influenced by the Latin teacher and drama coach, Nellie A. Buchanan.[2][3]

Long performed in a number of Broadway shows, including Porgy and Bess (as Sportin' Life in the 1942 revival), and Beggar's Holiday (1946). Long and Lena Horne co-introduced the Harold Arlen–Ted Koehler composition "As Long As I Live" in Cotton Club Parade (1934) when Horne was only 16 years old.

He reprised his role of Sportin' Life in the 1951 Columbia recording of Porgy and Bess, the most complete recording of the opera issued up to that time. He also appeared with Thelma Carpenter in the 1952 revival of Shuffle Along, which was recorded by RCA Victor.

Long received a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Musical) in 1973, for the role of Dave in Don't Play Us Cheap. The all-black play opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater in New York on May 16, 1972 and ran for 164 performances. Long, along with Thomas Anderson, Joshie Armstead, Robert Dunn, Jay Van Leer, Esther Rolle, Mabel King, George Ooppee McCurn, Frank Carey, Nate Barnett, and Rhetta Hughes, recreated their stage roles in a film production by Melvin Van Peebles, in 1973.

Long originated the role of John in Bubbling Brown Sugar on Broadway, which opened at the August Wilson Theatre (then-ANTA Playhouse) on March 2, 1976, and closed on December 31, 1977, after 766 performances.

Long also appeared in a number of films and television shows. He played the elderly Chicken George Moore in Roots: The Next Generations miniseries, and had small roles in Trading Places (1983) – memorable as Ezra, the servant to whom Ralph Bellamy gives a miserably small Christmas bonus ("maybe I'll go to the movies – by myself"), The Sting (1973) ("Flat rate!"), and Harry and Tonto (1974). He was originally cast to play George Jefferson in "All in the Family", but was replaced based on negative feedback from Carol O'Connor.[4]

Long died from cancer at 73, on February 15, 1984 in New York City, and was interred in NY's Ferncliff Cemetery, in Hartsdale, New York.

His oldest granddaughter is author, artist and radio talk show host JoAnn Pinkney Wilcox, who wrote the book "Getting Paid To Keep You in Debt!"


Year Title Role Notes
1946 Beggar's Holiday Specialty
1946 Centennial Summer Specialty
1948 Romance on the High Seas Specialty Singer
1968 Finian's Rainbow Passion Pilgrim Gospeleer Uncredited
1973 The Sting Benny Garfield
1973 Don't Play Us Cheap Brother Dave
1974 Harry and Tonto Leroy
1978 Bye Bye Monkey Miko
1983 Trading Places Ezra
1984 Nothing Lasts Forever Alphacruiser Steward (final film role)


  1. ^ Rousuck, J. Wynn (December 19, 1976). "Avon Long: Ecstasy to Broadway". The Baltimore Sun. p. 12. Retrieved March 31, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ Peters, Ida (August 23, 1975). "Nellie Buchanan Night in DC; Avon Long Honors Former Teacher". The Baltimore Afro-American. p. 14. Retrieved March 31, 2019 – via NewspaperArchive.com.
  3. ^ Peters, Ida (August 26, 1975). "Nellie Buchanan Night". The Baltimore Afro-American. p. 17. Retrieved March 31, 2019 – via NewspaperArchive.com.
  4. ^ Littleton, Darryl "D’Militant" (April 8, 2017). "On This Day in Comedy… In 1975 'The Jefferson's Premiered on CBS!". Humor Mill Mag. Retrieved June 2, 2019.

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