• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

COVID-19 claims Tiny Lister, Charley Pride and Carol Sutton

From left: Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Charley Pride and Carol Sutton. Photo provided

By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D.


The Internet is weeping over the COVID-19-related deaths of beloved character actor Tiny Lister, country music legend Charley Pride and veteran theater and TV actress Carol Sutton.

Tommy “Tiny” Lister, 62.

The character actor best known for his performance as Deebo in the cult classic Friday (1995) was found dead in his California home on December 10 after friends and business associates could not reach him, authorities said. Lister, who was blind in his right eye since birth, appeared in 220 television and film roles. In early 2020, he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and thought he had overcome the virus. Friends worried about him as he struggled to breathe and make it through a livestream and canceled an appearance at a TV festival. When friends were alarmed by his appearance Monday, he stated, “God’s Got Me.”

The actor, who was born with an eye defect that was an important part of his signature facial expression, famously wrestled Hulk Hogan in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) after appearing in the film No Holds Barred with the wrestling legend. He also had a short stint in the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) wrestling as Z-Gangsta. Lister’s acting roles were plentiful, such that that he had three completed films for 2021, five films in post-production and was in the process of filming two films.

Charley Pride, 86.

Country music’s first Black superstar passed away from Covid-19 complications. The son of sharecroppers, also served in the U.S. Army and played in the Negro Baseball Leagues, received the Country Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement ward last month in Nashville. The award was presented to him by Jimmie Allen, a young Black Country music star. Pride and Allen performed a duet at the awards show. Show producers said they followed COVID-19 protocols but some in attendance did not wear masks. Joseph Hudak of Rolling Stone writes:

“Born in Sledge, Mississippi, in 1934, Pride picked cotton, played baseball in the Negro leagues, served in the U.S. Army, and worked in a smelting plant in Montana before moving to Nashville and becoming country music’s first Black superstar. He scored 52 Top 10 country hits, including 29 Number Ones, and was the first African American performer to appear on the Grand Ole Opry stage since Deford Bailey made his debut in the 1920s. Pride became an Opry member in 1993. In 2000, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.”

Carol Sutton, 76.

Veteran actress Carol Sutton of Steel Magnolias and “Queen Sugar” fame has died of COVID-19 complications. The New Orleans native and theater legend, whose career spans over 50 years, died in the hospital in her hometown.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell confirmed Sutton’s death and remembered her in a statement:

“Carol Sutton was practically the Queen of New Orleans theater, having graced the stages across the city for decades. The world may recognize her from her performances in movies and on TV — whether it’s ‘Treme’ or ‘Claws,’ or ‘Runaway Jury’ or ‘Queen Sugar’ — but we will always remember her commanding stage presence, her richly portrayed characters, and the warm heart she shared with her fellow cast and crew in productions, such as ‘4000 Miles’ and ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

This article originally appeared in The Burton Wire.