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Maurice Hines, Tony-nominated tap dancer and Broadway star, dead at 80

The New York native found fame as a duo with his brother Gregory, later going solo and developing into a playwright and director.

Maurice Hines in a scene from the 2019 documentary “Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back.” (Starz)

Maurice Hines Jr., a star tap-dancer who saw mainstream success with his younger brother Gregory and later featured on Broadway, died in New Jersey on Dec. 29, two weeks after celebrating his 80th birthday. No cause of death was released.

His passing was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter the next day, with his cousin Richard Nurse sharing the news. His niece, Daria Lynn Hines, marked his death with a post on social media. 

“Paying Tribute to my beautiful Uncle Maurice, a wave maker in my life and in my heart forever,” she said, sharing clips from the award-winning 2019 documentary on his life, “Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back.”

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Born in Harlem, New York, in 1943, Hines Jr. was raised Catholic by Alma and Maurice Hines Sr., the latter an entertainer in his own right. The younger Maurice studied tap dance from his earliest school years with Henry LeTang, the trainer of numerous Black performers who went on to be major stars.

LeTang would pair the brothers Maurice and Gregory in routines tailored to their unique duo style, leading to their debut on Broadway in 1954 with “The Girl in Pink Tights.” They later toured with a fellow Black Catholic, the jazz polymath Lionel Hampton, and experienced international popularity.

Their heyday as a duo lasted for some two decades before Gregory’s solo stint as a musician on the West Coast occasioned Gregory’s solo Broadway career. The brothers would later reunite on a number of projects, most notably the Golden Globe-nominated 1984 Francis Ford Coppola film “The Cotton Club,” starring the Hineses, Richard Gere, and Diane Lane.

Two years later, Maurice starred in his own musical “Uptown… It’s Hot!” and earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor. In 1990, he became the first Black director for a production at Radio City Music Hall when he helmed the venue’s annual Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes.

Hines continued to perform, choreograph, and direct in his later life, including a tribute to his brother in 2013, ten years after his death from cancer in Los Angeles. The two had reportedly not spoken for roughly a decade before reconciling ahead of Gregory’s passing.

The rift was revealed in John Carluccio’s 2019 documentary, which won the Metropolis Grand Jury Prize at the DOC NY film festival in 2019. The movie helped revive interest in Hines’ nearly seven-decade career and has since streamed on various platforms.

In the film, Hines spoke of his enduring love for Harlem and his memories as a young parishioner at St. Catherine of Genoa Catholic Church.

“ I don’t live far from where Gregory and I were raised on 150th and Amsterdam,” he recalled.

“I go there, and I go to the Catholic church three blocks away we attended. It brings back great memories.”

Hines was a resident of the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey, at the time of his death. He is survived by his adopted daughter, Cheryl Davis, who he raised with his then-partner Silas Davis, as well as Gregory’s children, Daria and Zachary “Evan” Hines.

No funeral arrangements for Hines have been announced.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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