When tall and handsome Duane Jones was cast in Night of the Living Dead, George Romero had no intention of making history by casting the first black actor as a non-ethnic lead in an American film, Jones was just the best actor among Romero's friends (a tidbit of information I picked up from Document of the Dead). The film, which still stands as a masterwork, benefits from his strong, dignified presence. If the zombies were trying to breakdown the door to my farmhouse, there are worse heroes to ask for by your side than Jones.
His career in movies, which only includes a few other films like 1986's almost-should-have-been-good Vampires and a film called To Die For, which I learned from this clip is unfortunately not the Gus Van Sant classic. He spent years as a professor of Theater and English at NYU and was artistic director at The Richard Allen Center. He died at age 52 of heart failure.