Shawshank Inmate James Whitmore Dies

Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor who played Brooks the librarian in The Shawshank Redemption dies at 87

By Natalie Finn Feb 06, 2009 11:59 PMTags

James Whitmore didn't need a goodbye note to let us know he was here.

The veteran character actor, best known in his later years as Brooks, the prison librarian in The Shawshank Redemption, died Friday of lung cancer at his Malibu home, according to his son Steve Whitmore. He was 87.

Whitmore, a Tony Award winner in 1948 for his lead role in the World War II drama Command Decision (also his Broadway debut), didn't relegate himself to the theater world for long. He made his first film, The Undercover Man, a year later and continued to work consistently in movies and TV for the next 50 years, notching Oscar nominations for both supporting and lead actor, for 1949's Battleground and 1975's Give 'Em Hell, Harry!, respectively.

A new generation became acquainted with Whitmore when he taught Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman a sad lesson about prison life in Shawshank in 1994, and he went on to a recurring guest role in The Practice, for which he won an Emmy in 2000. His final TV appearance came in a 2007 episode of CSI.

The native of White Plains, N.Y., is survived by his third wife, Noreen, as well as three sons and eight grandchildren.