A year before he first played a superhero, Chadwick Boseman was already saving the world.
The “Black Panther” star, who died Friday at age 43 after a four-year battle with colon cancer, came to Goleta in 2015 to promote Direct Relief and its international efforts.
“Mr. Boseman visited Direct Relief to participate in a meeting on the West Africa Ebola epidemic at Direct Relief with Sierra Leone’s deputy health minister and researchers from UCSB,” Thomas Tighe, president and CEO of Direct Relief, told the News-Press Monday. “He could not have been more gracious, empathetic, curious and supportive. His passing truly is a great loss.”
Direct Relief’s photos show Mr. Boseman during a friendly meeting with Madina Rahman, Sierra Leone’s deputy minister of health. Accompanying the actor was Taylor Simone Ledward, his longtime girlfriend, whom he quietly married during his final months.
In addition to his meeting at Direct Relief, Mr. Boseman was seen on the red carpet in 2015 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The festival awarded him one of its Virtuosos awards for his portrayal of rock legend James Brown in “Get On Up” (2014).
Mr. Boseman portrayed other real-life icons. The Anderson, South Carolina, native starred as Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League Baseball player, in “42” (2013), and as Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice, in “Marshall” (2017).
And his portrayal of a fictional hero won him the acclaim of countless fans, who were won over by his straightforward, cleverly understated approach as T’Challa, the king of the fictional high-tech African nation of Wakanda and the Black Panther.
The superhero was co-created by two late Marvel Comics icons: Stan Lee and Thousand Oaks artist and writer Jack Kirby. T’Challa made his first comic book appearance in Fantastic Four No. 52 in July 1966.
It would be 50 years before the Black Panther appeared on the big screen, with Mr. Boseman playing him in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016). The movie was essentially another film in the successful Avengers superhero team franchise.
As Mr. Boseman was battling villains on the big screen, he was fighting for his health away from the cameras. He was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and it progressed to stage IV, according to the star’s Twitter account.
Despite his health struggles, Mr. Boseman continued to act. He returned as the popular superhero in “Black Panther” (2018), which made $1.3 billion worldwide. Domestically, it grossed $700 million.
Mr. Boseman played the Black Panther again in “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), which had climactic battle scenes in Wakanda, and its sequel, “Avengers: End Game” (2019).
And that brings Mr. Boseman’s story back to Goleta.
A few miles from Direct Relief’s headquarters, West-Wind Drive-In has been showing “Black Panther” frequently during the summer. It will do so again at 10 tonight (following an 8 p.m. screening of Marvel’s “The New Mutants”).
Mr. Boseman’s work lives on.