Raymond St. Jacques (March 1, 1930 – August 27, 1990) was an American actor, director and producer. He was the first African American actor to appear in a regular role on a western series, playing Simon Blake on Rawhide.
St. Jacques was born James Arthur Johnson in Hartford, Connecticut. He had a sister, Barbara Ann. Shortly after his birth, his parents divorced and he and his mother and sister moved to New Haven, Connecticut. St. Jacques' mother Vivienne later worked as a medical technician at Yale University. After graduating from Hillhouse High School, St. Jacques attended Yale where he studied drama and psychology. Upon graduation, St. Jacques worked as an assistant director, actor and fencing instructor for the American Shakespearean Festival in New Haven. St. Jacques staged all of the fencing scenes and duels while at the company and would continue to practice fencing for the rest of his life.
After moving to New York City, he continued to pursue acting and studied at the The Actors Studio. To support himself, St. Jacques worked as a model, dishwasher and a busboy. His first professional acting role was in the off-Broadway play High Name Today.
After appearing in bit parts on television in the early 1960s, St. Jacques made his film debut in the 1964 film Black Like Me. He followed with a role in The Pawnbroker later that year. In 1968, he appeared in a supporting role in The Green Berets. His best known film roles were that of Coffin Ed in the blaxploitation classics Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972). In the early 1970s, St. Jacques began teaching fencing and acting at Mafundi Institute in Watts, Los Angeles. In 1973, he produced, directed and starred in the crime film Book of Numbers. During the 1960s, St. Jacques also guest starred on numerous television shows including East Side/West Side, Daktari, The Virginian and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. In 1965, he was cast as "Simon Blake" in the Western series Rawhide. St Jacques was the first African American actor to ever be cast as a regular on a prime time Western series. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, St. Jacques continued with roles on stage, film and television. He became known as "The Man of a Thousand Faces" due to the varied parts he played throughout his career.
In 1976, St. Jacques starred as Othello in the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre production of the play of the same name. He remained active in stage work throughout his career, touring in productions of Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, A Raisin in the Sun, and the stage adaptation of The Man with the Golden Arm. From 1988 to 1989, St. Jacques had a two-year stint as Judge Clayton C. Thomas on the syndicated TV show Superior Court. In 1989, he played abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Edward Zwick's Glory. His final film role was in the 1991 sci fi film Timebomb released after his death.
St. Jacques was lifelong bachelor. In August 1969, St. Jacques granted an interview to columnist Earl Wilson and told Wilson of his plans to adopt two African American boys who were 6 and 7 years old. The adoption apparently never happened but, by the early 1970s, St. Jacques claimed to have two older sons, Raymond St. Jacques, Jr. and Sterling St. Jacques. In a 1973 interview, St. Jacques claimed that Raymond, Jr. was living in Boston. In May 1972, Sterling, then reported to be 22 years old, made news after four men attempted to rob St. Jacques' Bel Air home. Sterling was the only person home at the time (St. Jacques was in Dallas at the time) and fled after calling police. The four men were apprehended after their getaway car stalled in St. Jacques' driveway. Sterling went on to appear in St. Jacques' 1973 film Book of Numbers. In the mid to late 1970s, Sterling St. Jacques became known as a high fashion model (he was briefly engaged to fellow model Pat Cleveland), dancer and a frequent New York City nightclub and society fixture.
The adoption of Raymond, Jr. and Sterling was apparently never official. In his will, St. Jacques claimed that he had no children and named only Sterling, who he identified as his nephew, in his will. St. Jacques bequeathed Sterling $1 from his $750,000 estate.
St. Jacques frequently spoke of the prejudices he and other African American actors faced in being cast in non-stereotypical, thoughtful roles. He later worked to help African Americans find work behind the camera. St. Jacques was also an activist for African American civil rights. In 1985, he and other protestors were arrested during an anti-apartheid demonstration outside of the South African embassy in Washington D. C.
On August 27, 1990, St. Jacques died from lymphoma at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. His funeral was held on August 31 at The Church of the Recessional at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, after which he was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.
- Black Like Me (1964) - Burial Insurance Salesman
- The Pawnbroker (1964) - Tangee
- Mister Moses (1965) - Ubi
- Mister Buddwing (1966) - Hank
- The Comedians (1967) - Captain Concasseur
- Madigan (1968) - Dr. Taylor
- The Green Berets (1968) - Sgt. Doc McGee
- If He Hollers, Let Him Go! (1968) - James Lake
- Uptight (1968) - B.G.
- Change of Mind (1969) - David Rowe
- Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) - Coffin Ed Johnson
- Cool Breeze (1972) - Bill Mercer
- The Final Comedown (1972) - Imir
- Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972) - Coffin Ed Johnson
- Book of Numbers (1973) - Blueboy Harris
- Lost in the Stars (1974) - John Kumalo
- The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977) - Martin Luther King
- The Baron (1977)
- Born Again (1978) - Jimmy Newsom
- Cuba Crossing (1980) - Mr. Bell
- The Evil That Men Do (1984) - Randolph
- The Wild Pair (1987) - Ivory
- They Live (1988) - Street Preacher
- Glory (1989) - Frederick Douglass (uncredited)
- Voodoo Dawn (1991) - Claude
- Timebomb (1991) - Det. Sanchez