Jesse Williams Remembers How Norman Lear Came to His Defense After He Was Accused of 'Racist Hate Speech'

Norman Lear, who died on Tuesday, once defended the 'Grey's Anatomy' star after fans petitioned to remove him from the show following his passionate speech about racial injustice at the 2016 BET Awards

<p>Allen Berezovsky/WireImage</p> Norman Lear (left) and Jesse Williams

Allen Berezovsky/WireImage

Norman Lear (left) and Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams is remembering Norman Lear for his work beyond television.

Following the news of the Hollywood icon’s death, the Grey’s Anatomy alum, 42, paid tribute to his generous spirit and their personal history in a touching post shared to Instagram.

“Norman Lear, a gentle man of action who carved trails in culture and consciousness early and often. A soul I came to know, debate and learn from at a turning point in both our lives,” he captioned a series of selfies, group photos and headlines breaking news about their collaborations and public defenses.

Related: 15 of Norman Lear's Essential Works

One headline highlighted a time where Lear publicly rallied to Williams' side after Grey’s Anatomy fans called for a petition to remove him from the show.

After the actor made passionate remarks on racial injustice during his 2016 BET Awards acceptance speech, a user organized a petition claiming that the actor delivered a “racist hate speech against law enforcement and white people.”

In response to the allegations, Lear told IndieWire at the time, “I’ve seen and attended a ton of awards shows in my time, and no one has ever put his soul and his ass on the line so fully and so truthfully as Jesse Williams did at the BET Awards last week.”

Jesse Williams accepting his award at the 2016 BET Awards
Jesse Williams accepting his award at the 2016 BET Awards

Related: Rob Reiner, George Clooney, Tyler Perry and More Pay Tribute to Norman Lear After His Death: We 'Lost a Titan'

“Wither thou goest, Mr. Williams, I will follow,” he concluded.

Lear later created America Divided, a docuseries starring Williams that followed celebrities as they explored how inequalities in race, housing, education, healthcare and more had affected their lives.

In his tribute on Instagram, Williams continued, “Forever grateful for his personal and professional generosity uphill; his use of privilege; his observant leadership in a society molded by the arts. 🕊️. Thank you for the leaps forward.”

<p>Eric McCandless via Getty </p> Norman Lear

Eric McCandless via Getty

Norman Lear

Related: Norman Lear Celebrates His 100th Birthday with His 'Wonderful' Family in Vermont: 'How Lucky Am I?'

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, Lear died in his Los Angeles home of natural causes, according to a release from his representatives. He was 101.

They also confirmed the news of his death on his official Instagram account beside a black-and-white photo of Lear smiling. In the post, his team said he died "surrounded by his family as we told stories and sang songs until the very end."

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"Norman lived a life in awe of the world around him. He marveled at his cup of coffee every morning, the shape of the tree outside his window, and the sounds of beautiful music. But it was people—those he just met and those he knew for decades—who kept his mind and heart forever young," the caption read. "As we celebrate his legacy and reflect on the next chapter of life without him, we would like to thank everyone for all the love and support."

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