Lynne Thigpen (nee Richmond) was born December 22, 1948, in Joliet, Illinois. She earned a teaching degree and taught in Joliet for 2 years, when she moved to New York City in 1971 and began acting in plays throughout the city. Her first Broadway role was in the musical Godspell, and she appeared in the big screen version in 1981. During the early 80s, she made sporadic guest appearances on TV shows such as "Maude", "Gimme A Break!", and "All My Children," while also taking bit parts in movies, including Tootsie, Streets Of Fire, and Sweet Liberty.
Her big break came in 1989 when she became a recurring character on "thirtysomething" and played the doubting PTA parent Leonna Barrett in the winning film Lean On Me. After that, roles came in a steady flow: as District Attorney Ruby Thomas on "LA Law", along with roles in the movies Impulse, Bob Roberts, The Paper, Damon Wayans' Blankman, and Just Cause. Her arguably most famous role came in 1991 ,when she was tapped as the diligent straight-talking Chief on the children's television show "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?", based on the popular video game. The show was popular enough to invoke a spinoff with "Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego?", where Thigpen reprised her role as The Chief. In 1993, she returned to "All My Children" as Grace Keefer, a mentally ill woman who had lost her son under suspicious circumstances. Thigpen remained with the show until 2000.
During the late 90's, Thigpen both solidified her role as an astounding character actor (with roles in The Insider, The Bicentennial Man, and Random Hearts) and branched out with a recurring role on "Law & Order" and her creation of the role of Ella Mae Farmer, the police chief's aide, on the CBS series "The District." In 1997, she received a Tony for her role as a black feminist in Wendy Wasserstein's "An American Daughter", a role she again recreated in the movie version. She also had a deliciously cutting role in the 2001 indie flick Novocaine.
Her last major movie role was that of Judge Daniels in the Adam Sandler vehicle Anger Management. Lynne Thigpen passed away in Los Angeles on March 12, 2003, of an unexpected heart attack. She was 54.
Good work, gumshoes.
For Macarthur Parker and all of us who miss The Chief.