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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

DOQUI, ROBERT (1934–2008).

Stage and screen actor Robert DoQui not only had a prolific career but also helped change how the film industry treated minorities. Born Bobby Williams on April 20, 1934, in Stillwater, Oklahoma, he was raised by his grandmother, Mary McKnight, a cook for an Oklahoma State University fraternity. A gifted athlete and musician, Williams earned a scholarship to Langston University. There he performed with the talented musical ensemble “The Langstonaires.” At the university he met Anna Mae Johnson from Porter, Oklahoma, and they married in 1953. To support his new family, he left Langston and joined the U.S. Air Force. In his last year of military service they moved to Long Island, New York. There he started singing and acting in off-Broadway shows.

The DoQui family, which now included four children, relocated to California. There he began taking acting classes. By 1964 he was attaining roles in television and the movies, and he changed his name to Robert DoQui. His films ranged from Coffy (1973), a Blaxploitation movie, to Disney’s Treasure of Matecumbe (1976). Director Robert Altman cast him in three of his movies, Nashville (1975), Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson (1976),and Short Cuts (1993). DoQui also made guest appearances on many of the popular television shows of the 1960s through the 1990s. He voiced Pablo Robertson in the Harlem Globetrotters animated series and made guest appearances on Scooby-Doo. One of his most memorable roles was as Sgt. Warren Reed in the RoboCop movies. He appeared in more than 130 films and television shows. For PBS he starred in Up and Coming (1980), a show about a successful African American and his family who move into a middle-class neighborhood. The show was a precursor to the highly popular Cosby Show (1984–92).

A ten-year Screen Actors Guild (SAG) board member, he founded SAG’s minorities committee to promote actors of color and women in the entertainment industry. He worked with Jay Silverheels to change the portrayal of American Indians in film. DoQui was also active in the NAACP and received an NAACP Theatre Award. In 1993 the National Black College Hall of Fame inducted him as a member in the category of arts and entertainment.

Anna DoQui died in 1967, leaving four children, and in 1969 DoQui married fellow actor Janee Michelle, who was born Geneva Mercadel. The two starred in the movie Buffalo Soldier (1970), which was also released as Soul Soldier and as Red, White, and Black. Its subject is an all-Black cavalry regiment in the post–Civil War era. DoQui and his wife had one child before they divorced in 1978. The next year DoQui married Sharon Semper. On February 9, 2008, Robert DoQui died in Los Angeles, California.

Larry O’Dell


Robert DoQui Papers, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Margaret Herrick Library, Beverly Hills, California.

“Robert DoQui,” Vertical File, Research Center, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Eagle (Tulsa, Oklahoma), 6 March 2003.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Larry O’Dell, “DoQui, Robert,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=DO015.

Published September 22, 2023

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