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Joseph Morrow Wilcots (1 February 193930 December 2009; age 70) was an American Emmy Award-nominated cinematographer. Before he assumed that occupation, however, he was involved with the special effects for Star Trek: The Original Series while working at the Westheimer Company.[1]

Wilcots was born in Des Moines, Iowa. He served in the United States Navy as a photographer for four years and worked at The Westheimer Company for four and a half years after that. In 1967, he became the first African American to join the International Cinematographers Guild.

Following his stint at the The Westheimer Company, Wilcots was part of the camera crews for television shows such as The F.B.I. and Mission: Impossible and for such films as The Learning Tree, The Last Picture Show, Brother John (directed by James Goldstone), The Cowboys, and Lady Sings the Blues. He then became a camera operator on such films as The Long Goodbye (1973, featuring Henry Gibson), The Mack (1973, featuring George Murdock), and Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975, featuring Bernie Casey, Stefan Gierasch, Thalmus Rasulala, Logan Ramsey, and Madge Sinclair).

As a cinematographer, Wilcots is best known for his work on parts four through twelve of the the groundbreaking 1977 mini-series Roots. Several Star Trek performers had roles on Roots, notably LeVar Burton, Ben Vereen, and the aforementioned Madge Sinclair. Describing Wilcots and his work on Roots, Burton said:

"What stands out immediately is that the look and feel of 'Roots' holds up today, in 2010; it does not feel dated at all. … What I remember about Joe on that shoot is that he's a very gentle, gentle soul, as well as a very talented man." [2]

Wilcots received an Emmy Award nomination for his work on part seven of Roots. He returned as cinematographer for the 1979 sequel, Roots: The Next Generations, whose cast included Bernie Casey, Brock Peters, John Rubinstein, and Paul Winfield. His other credits as cinematographer include the comedy concert film Bill Cosby: Himself (for which he was also associate producer) and the television series Matlock and Brewster Place.

For fifteen years, Wilcots also worked variously as a cinematographer, photographer, producer, director and editor on music videos, tours, and other projects for music icon Michael Jackson. For example, he produced Jackson's Dangerous tour in 1992. Jackson died on 25 June 2009.

Wilcots suffered a stroke in 2008 and died from complications of it the following year. He was 70 years old. He was survived by his wife, Annette, and their children, Joseph Wilcots II and London Morrow Wilcots.

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