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Award-winning actress, educator Shirley Knight dies at 83

She was often a guest lecturer at Texas State University.
Credit: Texas State Department of Theatre and Dance

SAN MARCOS, Texas — Award-winning actress and educator Shirley Knight died on Wednesday, April 22, from natural causes in her daughter Kaitlin Hopkins' home.

Knight was a regular guest lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas State University

Throughout her life, she appeared in over 40 TV shows, 75 films and 30 major theater productions.

She was born in Goessel, Kansas, on July 5, 1936, to Noel Knight and Virginia Webster. She grew up with her brother, Donny, and sister, Gloria, in Mitchell, Kansas. She later graduated high school in Lyons, Kansas.

Knight attended Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, and Wichita State University. She received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts Degree from Lake Forest College.

She began her acting career in 1955 under contract at Warner Brothers Studios. Her early career included acting in television series "Rawhide," "Playhouse 90" and "77 Sunset Strip."


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Knight was preceded in death by her husband, John R. Hopkins, in 1998. 

She is survived by her stepdaughter, Justine Hopkins, and her two daughters Sophie Jacks and Kaitlin Hopkins.

Knight had a 60-year plus acting career which included performances in:

  • "Sweet Bird of Youth" opposite Paul Newman (Academy Award nomination)
  • "The Group, Petulia"
  • Francis Ford Coppola’s "The Rain People"
  • Amiri Baraka’s "Dutchman" (Volpi Cup for Best Actress)
  • Lee Strasberg’s "Three Sisters" with Kim Stanley and Geraldine Page
  • "The Young Man from Atlanta" (Tony Award nomination) 
  • "Kennedy’s Children" (Tony Award)
  • "Indictment: The McMartin Trial" (Emmy and Golden Globe Awards)
  • "NYPD Blue" (Emmy Award)
  • "Thirtysomething" (Emmy Award)
  • "Playing for Time" and "Desperate Housewives" (Emmy nominations)

Knight received multiple honors including:

  • Kansan of the Year (2000)
  • Governor's Distinguished Artist Award (2007)

The family requests that contributions be made to the Shirley Knight Memorial Fund at Texas State.


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