Actor Herb Jeffries, known for his acting and singing careers, died of heart failure Sunday. He was 100 years old.
Jeffries began acting in 1937, making his debut in Harlem on the Prairie, a Western that featured black actors in an attempt to prove that the wild west was more diverse than other films of the era would lead audiences to believe. Jeffries went on to star as a singing cowboy in multiple films of this type, including 1939’s The Bronze Buckaroo — a movie title that ended up becoming the actor’s nickname.
Jeffries, who came from a mixed racial background — his mother was Irish, while his father’s origins were murkier; he’s variously reported to have had Sicilian, Ethiopian, French, Italian, African-America, and Moorish roots – also sang outside of Westerns and had a successful jazz singing career. He recorded music with jazz legend Duke Ellington, including hit song “Flamingo,” and released an album made up of Western songs titled The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again) in 1995 at age 81.
The actor and singer has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 2004.