By Tribune Staff
NASHVILLE, TN — Roger E. Mosley had a long and very distinguished career, though most people remember him from his role in the ‘80s TV series “Magnum P.I.” But Mosley, 83, who passed Sunday from injuries sustained in a car crash Thursday, also had a long career in another area. He was a fine high school track and field coach who helped gifted athletes reach their full potential over a three decade period.
Though he appeared in several feature films and television shows, it was his role as helicopter pilot Theodore “T.C.” Calvin on “Magnum, P.I.” that made him a global star.
“My dad was always a man of the community,” Ch-a Mosley told The Los Angeles Times Sunday. “Even while famous and having this successful career in Hollywood, he continued to work with youth — most recently working as a track coach in the Monrovia [Unified School District].”
“He personally coached me. I was his first hurdler that he trained to run the 400-meter hurdles, and he made me into a champion. Under his coaching, I learned what it meant to win. … He made sure that I had a work ethic, and he instilled in me a strong moral compass to stand on my own two feet and to get a good education and have all the tools I needed to be successful in life.”
Mosley appeared as ex-Marine T.C. in more than 150 episodes of “Magnum, P.I.,” which aired for eight seasons on CBS, ending in 1988. He also guest-starred on a couple of episodes of the recent “Magnum P.I.” reboot as John Booky, a wise barber and Vietnam War veteran.
Before his “Magnum, P.I.” fame, Mosley acted in a host of projects. The list includes”Sanford and Son,” “The Love Boat” and “Roots: The Next Generations.” In 1973, he starred opposite his future “Magnum, P.I.” cast-mate Tom Selleck in the prison thriller “Terminal Island.” The next year, he shared the screen with John Wayne in the police drama “McQ.”
He also portrayed Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly, in Gordon Parks’ 1976 biopic about the blues musician, as well as professional boxer Sonny Liston in the 1977 Muhammad Ali biopic “The Greatest.”
After “Magnum, P.I.,” Mosley continued building his TV resume with recurring roles on other shows, including 1990s sitcoms “You Take the Kids” and “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” as well as the Showtime series “Rude Awakening.” On the big screen, some of Mosley’s later credits include the 1996 romantic comedy-thriller “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” and the 1998 crime drama “Letters From a Killer.” His penultimate role was Grandpa Faison in the 2010 comedy series “FCU: Fact Checkers Unit.” In a full-circle moment after nearly a decade-long acting hiatus, Mosley returned to the small screen one last time for the new “Magnum P.I.,” starring Jay Hernandez in the titular role and Stephen Hill as T.C.
“Rest In Power to the King, Father, Husband, Friend, Trailblazer, Black Power-Man, Coach, Gentleman, Powerhouse Talent, and Mentor Roger E. Mosley,” Hill wrote Sunday on Instagram. “We have all been honored by the example of your life.”
Mosley grew up in the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts. Beyond his career onscreen, Mosley became a prominent and influential figure on the high school track and field scene in L.A. and coached a variety of other sports, including swimming and basketball.
“He was always giving knowledge,” said Mike Knowles, who met Mosley while training Ch-a Mosley at John Muir High School in Pasadena before he and Mosley became longtime friends and coaching partners.
“If you asked him something, you would get the complete answer, not just a part-answer. … He was an encyclopedia of knowledge on different things.”
Knowles said Mosley was a perfectionist who repeatedly declined offers to coach track and field at the college level because he preferred to discover young local talent and mold them into champions.
“He was a tough coach,” Knowles said. “But all his athletes respected him. … They may not always have liked his coaching methods, but every one that he ever coached that went on to college or to the pros … came back and thanked him for being tough on them and teaching them how it’s going to be in life. And that’s what he did to all of us, basically.
“He didn’t have to do that. He had money. He had fame. He didn’t have to go back to the community and put his time in there. But he did.”
Mosley is survived by his daughter and his wife, Antoinette “Toni” Mosley.