Robert Guillaume (R) with Bernie Kopell (L).Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Robert Guillaume – the voice of the wise Rafiki from The Lion King, and two-time Emmy winner who also played the role of butler Benson in multiple ABC sitcoms has passed away, at the age of 89.

The baritone star had also lent his voice in sequels of the Lion King, various video games and TV series. As the first black actor to have the title role in the Phantom of the Opera and consistently breaking racial stereotypes in by playing major roles in sitcoms, was truly an icon.

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The legend passed away at his home in Los Angeles. He was suffering from prostate cancer his wife Donna Brown Guillaume told the Associated Press. 

Remembered mostly for playing Benson DuBois on Soap, which ran from 1977 to 1981, Guillaume always spoke about how coming from poverty and struggles helped shape and develop his adaptation to the character.

In his autobiography, "Guillaume: A Life" (with David Ritz, 2002), he wrote, "I wanted black people to be proud of Benson." His Emmy for outstanding actor in a comedy in 1985 for the same character also made him the only black man to win in that category.

Born Robert Williams in St. Louis on November 30, 1927, Guillaume was raised by his maternal grandmother. He had also served briefly in the US Army, before attending St. Louis University. Having always fantasized about singing for Broadway, he moved to New York and eventually performed in Finian's Rainbow (1960) and later Kwamina, Tambourines to Glory and Purlie.

In 1999, Robert suffered a mild stroke and upon his wife's suggestion, "we could incorporate the stroke into the series [the Sports Night] and he [Aaron Sorkin] agreed ... it allowed me to come back and not pretend that I had not had a stroke," he shared in a 2008 interview.

The loss of his talent has been acknowledged and mourned by many celebrities who immediately took to social media to share their feelings and condolences.