Quinn was collegiate top boxer turned actor

By Matt Schudel / The Washington Post

Published Jan 22, 2014 at 11:16PM

Tom Quinn, a champion boxer at Georgetown University in the 1950s who later worked in investments before becoming a busy character actor in theater, television and film, died Jan. 5 at a hospital in Teaneck, N.J. He was 79.

He had complications from diabetes, his son T.J. Quinn said.

Tom Quinn was the last boxer at Georgetown to win an intercollegiate tournament and to be named to the university’s athletic hall of fame. He later boxed in the Marine Corps and stayed close to the sport while working as a stockbroker, political consultant, investment adviser and benefits director for the NFL Players Association. For years, he taught boxing — “which I sometimes refer to euphemistically as Advanced Irish Pilates,” he said in 2008 — at local gyms and to students at Georgetown.

But in the last 25 years of his life, Quinn took on yet another career as a character actor. He never became a star, but with his real-world experiences, his boxing-ring savvy and a round, cherubic face that was like a living map of Ireland, he seldom lacked for work.

Based in Washington since 1975, Quinn had small roles in “The Pelican Brief,” a 1993 legal drama starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, and in the 1998 spy thriller “Enemy of the State,” with Will Smith and Gene Hackman. He appeared on the TV political drama “The West Wing” and on the gritty detective show “Homicide.” He had a recurring role as a washed-up, cynical police officer in the first season of “The Wire,” the well-regarded HBO series about the drug underworld of Baltimore.

He portrayed a baseball manager in the 1994 movie comedy “Major League II” and was cast as a trainer in the 2007 boxing film “The Hammer.”

Quinn was versatile enough to appear in Shakespearean plays in the District of Columbia at the Folger and Shakespeare theaters, but he may have had his most challenging — and most fitting — part when he played an aging boxing champion-turned-promoter in the 2000 revival of “The Great White Hope” at Washington’s Arena Stage.

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