Jim Kelly, who said he was the first African American martial arts expert to star in movies but later left the industry to become a tennis coach, died Saturday.
His death at 67 was confirmed by his former wife, Marilyn Dishman. No cause was disclosed.
Born May 5, 1946, and raised in Millersburg, Ky., and San Diego, Kelly attended the University of Louisville on a football scholarship but quit to protest the racist treatment of another player, he told The Times in 2010.
He took up karate in the mid-1960s and ran a school in Los Angeles. He played a martial arts instructor in the 1972 thriller "Melinda" and then took a leading role in "Enter the Dragon," a 1973 film with Bruce Lee.
"With his lightning-quick fists and feet, cocksure attitude and repertoire of quotable one-liners, the Afro-sporting, chisel-chested Kelly was as cool and flashy as Lee was fast and lethal," The Times said.
He also did a number of "martial arts-influenced 'blaxploitation' films," according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), including "Three the Hard Way," "Golden Needles" and "Black Belt Jones."
Times staff and wire reportsCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun