LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Award-winning actor and activist Ron Silver, who was Emmy-nominated for his role on the hit U.S. television drama "The West Wing," died on Sunday of cancer. He was 62.
"Ron Silver died peacefully in his sleep with his family around him early Sunday morning," said Robin Bronk, executive director of the Creative Coalition, which Silver helped found.
Bronk said Silver was with his family in New York City and he had been fighting esophageal cancer for two years.
Bronk called Silver not only a very talented actor, but a champion of free speech and artists' rights.
New York-based Creative Coalition is an art-oriented political group founded in 1989 by Silver, Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon, among others.
Silver, who won Broadway's 1988 Tony Award for his work in David Mamet's drama "Speed the Plow," had been a longtime liberal activist, but after the September 11 attacks became an outspoken supporter of Republican President George W. Bush.
He was a featured speaker at the 2004 Republican National Convention, sometimes called himself a "9/11 Republican" and switched his party affiliation from Democrat to independent.
Silver said his shift in politics cost him jobs in liberal Hollywood, yet he remained sought out for his skills as a character actor.
His portrayal of White House strategist Bruno Gianelli on "The West Wing" was perhaps his best known part in recent years, but he earned another Emmy nomination for the murder thriller "Billionaire Boys Club."
He had roles on the TV hospital drama "Chicago Hope" and the comedy "Veronica's Closet," and he won acclaim for playing lawyer Alan Dershowitz in the film "Reversal of Fortune."
Born and raised in New York City, his father worked in the garment industry and his mother was a teacher. He earned a master's degree in Chinese history from St. John's University in New York and studied drama at the Actors Studio. Silver and ex-wife Lynne Miller had a son and a daughter.
Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Eric Beech