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Jim Kelly, Martial Arts Icon And Star Of ‘Enter The Dragon,’ Dies At Age 67
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Jim Kelly

Before there were men like Wesley Snipes and Michael Jai White kicking unaccountable amounts of ass on the big screen, Jim Kelly was the first black martial arts action hero in cinema. On Saturday he died of cancer at his home in San Diego. He was 67 years old.

Born in Paris, Kentucky on May 5, 1946, Kelly was a star athlete in high school. He played football and basketball and participated in track and field events. Though he went to the University of Louisville to play football he left the school during his freshman year to begin studying Shorin-ryu and Okinawa-te karate. He earned his black belt in 1969. Kelly eventually rose to become a world class karate champion and would soon open his own dojo. After training actor Calvin Lockhart to fight for the 1972 film Melinda and playing the small role of a martial arts instructor in that movie Kelly decided to take a shot at Hollywood stardom.

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