Dear [[First name]],
In September, we celebrated the Los Angeles premiere of the documentary "Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football" which featured the story of Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, two former UCLA players who were among four African American athletes who broke the color barrier in professional football.
Woody’s son, Kalai Woody Strode ’69, commented in the film on his father’s role in integrating pro football and enthusiastically attended the premiere at Royce Hall. It is with a heavy heart we announce Kalai’s sudden passing over Thanksgiving while helping care for his ailing mother-in-law. He was 67 years old.
Kalai Strode was born to his mother, Princess Luukialuana Kalaeloa (Luana), and his father, Woodrow Wilson Woolwine (Woody) Strode on December 16, 1946 in Hollywood, California in the year his father broke the color barrier in the NFL by playing for the Los Angeles Rams alongside fellow UCLA great, Kenny Washington.
Kalai grew up in East Los Angeles and graduated from James A. Garfield High School. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Asian Languages in 1969. He spent his junior year in Mitaka, Japan at the International Christian University where he studied Japanese and Haiku. Kalai won a grant from the East West Center at the University of Hawai’i and graduated with a master’s degree in Asian Studies in 1971. He spent part of 1970 as a guide for the American Pavilion at EXPO 70 in Osaka, Japan, and did post-graduate research in Kyoto the following year.
For 13 years Kalai Strode lived in Honolulu, HI with his wife, Pamela. During that time he worked on a screenplay about his father, who not only integrated pro sports, but was a pioneer for African-American actors in Hollywood. Woody Strode acted alongside Kirk Douglas in Spartacus and Burt Lancaster in The Professionals. He also played the title role in Sergeant Rutledge at a time when there were almost no lead roles for black actors in American film.
Following his father’s passion for the cinematic arts Kalai began training as an assistant director on the film Roots in 1977 and became a member of the Directors Guild of America a year later. He also served as assistant director on TV series’ including Lou Grant, The White Shadow, Diagnosis Murder and Lost; and for films such as North Dallas Forty and The Lost Boys. He acted in Hawaii Five-O.
Kalai Strode is survived by his wife, Pamela Larson Strode aka Dakota Larson (member of SAG/AFTRA Guild), his son, Joshua Strode, and his sister, June Robertson. He is also survived by two stepchildren, Garrett and Nathan Nordstrom, and two step-grandchildren, Zevi and Sadira Nordstrom.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, financial contributions be made to the Kalai Strode Memorial Fund. All donations will be put toward the final resting place of Kalai Woody Strode, a talented, kind, loving and spiritual man.