Sherman Hemsley, the man who played Geroge Jefferson on the famous sitcom The Jeffersons, passed away today at the age of 74.
According to police Hemsley was found in his El Paso, Texas home by his nurse this morning, apparently dead of natural causes.
Born on February 1, 1938 and a one-time mail sorter from the south Philadelphia, Hemsley got a late start on the road to stardom. He got his first big break in 1970 when All in the Family producer Norman Lear saw him in the musical Purlie on Broadway and offered him the supporting role of George Jefferson.
He was clearly the breakout star on All in the Family as the bigoted neighbor and foil to Archie Bunker. The walk, the talk and the 1970's swagger made him an ideal character for his own spinoff show. After a few years, The Jeffersons sitcom was born.
The Jeffersons ran for 10 years from 1975 to 1985 and was one of several groundbreaking black sitcoms of that era, including Sanford and Son and Good Times. With George Jefferson at the helm and his wife Weezy (Isabel Sanford) by his side, George was a character unlike any other seen on TV. George Jefferson was a proud and successful African American businessman, who was cocky, opinionated and never afraid to speak his mind.
Mr. Hemsley played the role to a tee and was rewarded with Emmy and a Golden Globe nominations for The Jeffersons and an NAACP Image Award in 1982.
In addition to The Jeffersons Hemsley starred in Amen (1986-91), in which he played a deacon at a church in Philadelphia, and Goode Behavior (1996-97), in which he played Willie Goode, a paroled con artist. He also voiced Bradley P. Richfield in the family sitcom Dinosaurs (1991-94).
Cocky and brash on television, but humble and unassuming in real life, Hemsley represents one of the few positive, successful black businessmen on television. We celebrate his life and accomplishments and he will surely be missed.
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