CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia-born actor Lou Myers, a champion for improving the image of his home state, died Tuesday evening, his agent said. He was 67.Myers, perhaps best known as Mr. Gaines on the TV show "A Different World," was born in Chesapeake, the son of a Cabin Creek coal miner.Myers died at 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Charleston Area Medical Center, Memorial Division. He had battled pneumonia for months, according to a news release.Myers is survived by his mother, Dorothy Jeffries, 95, son, Melvin Myers, and two grandsons, Brayden and Christian.
The West Virginia State University alumnus was an accomplished stage, screen and television actor who was also an adept piano player. He got his first break as an understudy in the Broadway play "The First Breeze of Summer," and won an NAACP Image Award for his portrayal of the Stool Pigeon in the play "King Hedley II."During his fourth Broadway appearance in "Oprah Winfrey's The Color Purple," Myers was the only performer in the play whom the audience recognized and applauded each time he appeared on stage, which Myers said at the time was better than having his name in print, according to the release.Myers completed his fifth, and final, appearance on Broadway in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," African-American style.The black actor appeared in more than a dozen films, including roles in the 1998 film "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" and 2001's "The Wedding Planner."Television roles included appearances on "ER," "JAG" and "NYPD Blue."Myers sometimes returned to his home state as a motivational speaker and cheerleader for West Virginia and its residents. He gave the Black History Month convocation at West Virginia State in 2010, and helped present a Black History Celebration in 2011 with local songstress Doris "Lady D" Fields and poet Crystal Good.In 2005, the Appalachian Education Initiative listed Myers as one of 50 "Outstanding Creative Artists" from West Virginia and featured him in their coffee table book Art & Soul.Myers was the founder and director of the "Tshaka Ensemble Players." For eight years throughout Black History month, "Tshaka Ensemble Players" continually performed the historical and educational play "Foot Steps From Before," which was written and produced by Myers.He even sang jazz and blues with the touring company of "Negro Music in Vogue." Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1215.