The actor played Neil Winters — one of the soap world’s earliest and most enduring Black characters
His real name was Kristoff St. John, but to generations of fans of the top-rated soap opera The Young and the Restless, he was Neil Winters — one of the soap world's earliest and most enduring Black characters.
St. John was found dead at his home on Sunday. The cause of death has not been made public, but some reports have said it was suspected alcohol poisoning.
The veteran actor found great success on screen, and won multiple Daytime Emmys, but faced immense tragedy in his private life, in particular with the 2014 death of his 24-year-old son Julian.
St. John regularly spoke about the profoundness of that loss, and how his life was forever changed.
Just two weeks ago he retweeted a tweet that read, "Grieving the loss of a child is a process. It begins on the day your child passes, and ends the day the parent joins them."
Now tributes are pouring in for the Y&R star, both from his colleagues and legions of fans. "My mom and older bro watch 'the stories.' I'm sure they don't know yet so I'm gon have to break the news. Oof," wrote bestselling author Jason Reynolds. "I don't care what nobody says, homeboy was an icon for the Black family. A fixture. Black people's Victor (you gotta watch stories to know Victor.)"
"I will never forget how wonderful he was to me and everyone else he came into contact with," wrote actress Yvette Nicole Brown. "He was just a good, good man."
Many on social media described how they grew up watching St. John on the show, among them veteran Canadian pop duo Tegan and Sara.
St. John's fellow stars expressed shock over the actor's sudden death, and deep admiration for the actor who had "talent, grace, kindness, wisdom, sincerity, humor, [and] total command of whatever room he stepped into, on screen or off."
"My heart aches at the thought that I will never see you again. The only thing that helps is the knowledge that you are finally out of pain," wrote actress Jess Walton, who plays Jill Foster Abbott Fenmore Atkinson on Young and the Restless. "I know that you are reunited with Julian and I can always think of you with that giant smile on your face."
St. John's acting career dated back to his childhood, when he played a young Alex Haley in the 1979 ABC miniseries Roots: The Next Generations. He also appeared on shows including Happy Days and The Cosby Show, but he is best known for his role on The Young and the Restless, which he has played since 1991.
"I love this kid. He was a wonder kid, a great actor and an awesome man," wrote actor Stan Shaw, who played Alex Haley's grandfather in Roots: The Next Generations. "I'd spoken with him recently. I'm just devastated."
The actor's social media feeds reveal a passion for politics, as well as a love of family, animals and football. His final posts were from January 21, Martin Luther King Day.