Cicely Tyson and the spy craze

Cicely Tyson and Ivan Dixon in So Long Patrick Henry, the first episode of I Spy broadcast by NBC in 1965.

Cicely Tyson has died after a long and distinguished career in acting. Her passing on Jan. 28, at the age of 96, prompted many tributes.

“In a remarkable career of seven decades, Ms. Tyson broke ground for serious Black actors by refusing to take parts that demeaned Black people,” according to an obituary in The New York Times. “She urged Black colleagues to do the same, and often went without work.”

Tyson made her presence known during television shows created during the 1960s spy craze.

She played a supporting role in So Long Patrick Henry, the first episode of I Spy that was broadcast on Sept. 15, 1965. Tyson portrayed an African princess who was engaged to Elroy Browne, a U.S. athlete who had defected to China during the 1964 Olympics in Japan.

The episode was not the show’s pilot. But it was one of four first-season episodes written by star Robert Culp. NBC moved the episode up to be the premiere for the series.

Tyson returned in a second-season episode of I Spy, Trial by Treehouse, that aired during the show’s second season.

The actress also was a guest star in a 1970 episode of Mission: Impossible, Death Squad. The IMF’s Barney Collier (Greg Morris) is vacationing in a Latin American country and falls in love with Tyson’s character, artist Alma Ross.

The brother of a police official obsesses over Alma. The police official runs a death squad and Barney soon is targeted to be its next victim.

What follows is a sampling of the many tributes to Tyson.

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