Actor Scott Wilson, best known for his roles as an itinerant murderer in “In Cold Blood” and as moral compass Hershel Greene on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” died Saturday after battling leukemia. He was 76.

The news came Saturday night from a statement issued by “The Walking Dead” comic book’s official Twitter. “We are deeply saddened to report that Scott Wilson, the incredible actor who played Hershel on #TheWalkingDead, has passed away,” it said.

Wilson, born William Delano Wilson on March 29, 1942, hailed from Atlanta. Though he was awarded an athletic scholarship in 1960 to Georgia’s Southern Polytechnic State University, he instead spent three days hitchhiking to Los Angeles, where he arrived with $40 in his pocket. After a drunken night, Wilson found himself in an acting class.

After spending more than five years in acting classes and workshops, Wilson was introduced to casting director Lynn Stalmaster. Stalmaster passed his name on to director Norman Jewison and producer Walter Mirisch, who hired him for the role of murder suspect Harvey Oberst in 1967’s “In the Heat of the Night.”

It was on the set of that film that he developed a relationship with the film’s star, Sidney Poitier. Poitier recommended the 24-year-old Wilson to Richard Brooks, who was adapting Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” Wilson was cast in the highly coveted role of murderer Dick Hickock, who, with drifter Perry Smith (played by Robert Blake), killed four members of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959.

“Every actor in the English-speaking world wanted those two roles, including (Paul) Newman and (Steve) McQueen,” Wilson said. “Brooks hired two ‘unknowns,’ and he wanted to keep it that way. We were treated like two killers he had somehow run across.”