The Tony and Emmy Award winner is best remembered for his groundbreaking TV series The White Shadow

By Patrick Gomez
Updated March 23, 2016 05:25 PM
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Michael Buckner/BAFTA LA/Getty

Ken Howard, best known for his groundbreaking CBS drama The White Shadow, is dead at 71.

The Tony and Emmy Award winner also starred as Thomas Jefferson in the 1972 film 1776, was featured in the 1995 Sandra Bullock thriller The Net, and guest-starred as Kabletown CEO Hank Hooper on 30 Rock. Just last year, he appeared in Kevin Hart‘s The Wedding Ringer and the Jennifer Lawrence hit Joy.

Howard was elected president of the Screen Actor’s Guild in 2009 and was a guiding force in the union’s 2012 merger with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. He was elected co-president upon the merger. In 2013, became the first elected president of SAG-AFTRA and was reelected in 2015.

“Ken was a remarkable leader and … a source of inspiration for all of us,” SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director David White says in a statement to PEOPLE. “He was an exceptional person and we are deeply saddened by his passing. He had a remarkable career and he never forgot what it was like to be a working performer.”

Howard was previously married to advice columnist Margo Howard and Days of our Lives actress Louise Sorel. He is survived by his wife Linda Fetters, a former stuntwoman.

“My heart goes out to Ken’s loving wife, Linda, and to their family,” continues White’s statement. “He will be deeply missed.”

No cause of death has been announced.