Joe Seneca (Joel McGhee)

Joe Seneca

Joe Seneca (January 14, 1919 – August 15, 1996) was an American film and television actor who had a lengthy Hollywood career, portraying bit parts in many major films and television sitcoms spanning from the 1970s to the 1990s. He played the father of Danny Glover’s character in the film Silverado. Seneca was born Joel McGhee in Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to his Hollywood career, Seneca belonged to the R&B singing group The Three Riffs, performing at upscale supper clubs in New York City. He was also a songwriter and had big hits with “Talk to Me” which was sung by Little Willie John and “Break It to Me Gently”, which was a smash hit twice, once by Brenda Lee in 1962, and once by Juice Newton in 1982. In the 1982 film, The Verdict, Seneca plays the supporting role of Dr. Thompson, a small-town women’s hospital physician brought in by attorney Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) to support his belief that two famous doctors’ incompetence, left his client alive but in a coma. Seneca’s performance, while subdued, brings a gritty realism to the court proceedings and was one of his more important film roles. Arguably his most well-known roles are that of bluesman Willie Brown in Crossroads (1986) and Dr. Meddows in The Blob (1988), the evil head of a government team sent to contain the title creature. Seneca also made multiple appearances on The Cosby Show as Hillman President Dr. Zachariah J. Hanes. He also played Alvin Newcastle, a man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, on an episode of The Golden Girls entitled “Old Friends.” Seneca appeared in Spike Lee’s School Daze as Mission College President McPherson in 1988. Seneca played the accused, found innocent, on Matlock, in the May 9, 1989 episode “The Blues Singer”. He later played a blind murder witness in the October 13, 1993 Law & Order episode “Profile”. Seneca appeared in Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” music video in the late 1980s. He died from asthma at the age of 77.


  • January, 14, 1919
  • USA
  • Cleveland, Ohio


  • August, 15, 1996
  • USA
  • Roosevelt Island, New York

Cause of Death

  • asthma


  • Highland Park Cemetery
  • Highland Hills, Ohio
  • USA

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