Belton O’Neal Compton Jr., a film and television actor who spent years in Charleston, died Monday. He was 68.
O’Neal Compton spent the 1990s in Los Angeles working as a character actor in numerous popular movies, including “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman,” “Made in America,” “Nell,” “Nixon,” “Diabolique,” “Deep Impact” and “Primary Colors.” He appeared in TV shows such as “Martin,” “Quantum Leap,” “Home Improvement,” "Seinfeld" and “Coach.”
He also made photographic portraits of celebrities that have been exhibited in galleries and private collections.
Compton was born in Sumter, attended Clemson University and Wofford College, served in the Navy and worked in the theater. An entrepreneur, he built the first crematorium in Atlanta and briefly ran his family's funeral home.
Compton spent the 1980s in Charleston working with artist-filmmaker David Boatwright and friend Timmy Mallard. They operated production and advertising companies and made commercials in which Compton appeared as the Cajun “Big Daddy” character Justin Thyme.
“We made a bunch of really funky commercials for about five years, comic but beautiful,” Boatwright said. They shared an office on Lower King Street at the time.
Compton, who had an oversized personality, was not always easy to work with, but his talent was undeniable, Boatwright said.
“He was a really natural actor,” he said. “Just as soon as you saw him on camera, you believed him.”
The commercials helped pave the way to Hollywood. By the early 2010s, Compton was back in Charleston coping with health problems, including a difficult hip replacement, Boatwright said.
“A hard life caught up with him.”
Compton died at the VA hospital in Columbia. He is survived by four brothers, many nieces and nephews and his caregiver of the last 10 years, Sadia Mullins. A memorial is planned for 4 p.m. Saturday at the Sumter County Museum, 122 N. Washington St.