(JACKSON, Miss.) – Actress and JSU alum Tommie “Tonea” Stewart of “In The Heat of The Night” fame will be the fall 2019 Graduate/Undergraduate Commencement speaker at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 6, in the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center.
Stewart earned her undergraduate degree in speech and theater from Jackson State University in 1969. Later she studied at the University of California at Santa Barbara, receiving a master’s degree in theater arts. She was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in theater arts from Florida State University. In addition, she studied under well-known coaches such as Beah Richards, Frank Silvera and Joseph Papp.
In addition, she is a retired tenured professor and was dean of the College of Visual & Performing Arts at Alabama State University.
The former Miss JSU is best known for her role as “Aunt Etta Kibbe” on “In The Heat of the Night.” As well, she played “Old Cora” in an episode of “American Horror Story” on the FX Channel, which starred Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates. The acclaimed actress has been in big-screen productions, including “A Time to Kill,” which earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination, and in “Mississippi Burning.”
Last year, Stewart was featured in a Netflix drama based on true events about internationally renowned pastor Carlton Pearson, who risked everything after questioning church doctrine and being branded a modern-day heretic.
Outside of her film work, Stewart has spent more than 25 years operating a summer youth camp for young people seeking professional training in the performing arts.