Actor and former NFL defensive end Bubba Smith passed yesterday, 3 August 2011, at the age of 66. The cause is not yet known.
Bubba Smith was born Charles Smith in Beaumont, Texas on 28 February 1945. He was called "Bubba" since childhood. His father coached the Charlton-Pollard High School team in Beaumont on which Mr. Smith played. He attended Michigan State University where he played as a defensive end. He then spent nine seasons in the NFL, playing for the Baltimore Colts, the Oakland Raiders, and the Houston Oilers.
Following his career in the NFL, Mr. Smith took up acting. He made his debut on television in an episode of Wonder Woman in 1978. From the late Seventies into the Eighties he appeared on such shows as Good Times, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, Charlie's Angels, The White Shadow, Taxi, Hart to Hart, and Mike Hammer. He was a regular on the shows Open All Night, Blue Thunder, and Half Nelson. He made his film debut in A Pleasure Doing Business in 1979. From the Seventies into the Eighties he appeared in such films as Escape from DS-3 (1981), Stroker Ace (1984), and Black Moon Rising (1986). In 1984 he appeared in his most famous role as Moses Hightower, the gigantic but gentle florist turned cop in Police Academy. He appeared as Moses in five of the movie's sequels.
From the Nineties into the Naughts he appeared on such shows as Married With Children, MacGyver, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Police Academy: The Series. He appeared in such films as My Samurai (1992), The Naked Truth (1993), Fist of Honour (1994), The Coach (2004), and Blood River (2010).
Bubba Smith may not have been a great actor, but he was certainly an appealing one. Most of his characters were not unlike Bubba Smith was said to be in real life--a gentle giant who truly cared about people. Indeed, it is mark of Mr. Smith's likeability that people remember him as Moses Hightower, when so much of the Police Academy franchise was utterly forgettable. Mr. Smith played a character very much like himself in real life and people loved him for it. It has been said more than once since the 6' 7" former defensive end has died that he was a true gentleman. Given the rarity of such men in sport or entertainment, then, Bubba Smith is truly a celebrity to be mourned.