Born in Oklahoma, African American actor Cleavon Little was raised in California where he attended San Diego College. Trained for a performing career at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, Little made his off-Broadway debut in the 1968 political satire MacBird In 1970, he won a Tony award for his work in the Broadway musical Purlie, and within a year was hired as an ensemble player (along with such luminaries as Jack Gilford and Marcia Rodd) on the syndicated TV variety weekly The David Frost Revue. Little's star turn as Dr. Jerry Noland on the network sitcom Temperatures Rising (1972-74) made him a "hot" enough performer to win the coveted lead role of Sheriff Bart in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles (1974) -- beating out Richard Pryor, who had written the part for himself! Blazing Saddles was the high point of Little's career, which subsequently went into a slow decline. Cleavon Little's last major assignment was the role of Sal on the 1991 TV series Bagdad Café; one year later, he died of colon cancer at the age of 53.