TV icon Sherman Hemsley has passed away.
The death of the actor whose television career goes back almost forty years was announced dead at his home in El Paso, Texas by local police this afternoon. As of now, no cause of death has been cited.
Best known as George Jefferson on the ground-breaking 70s comedy THE JEFFERSONS, Hemsley was also part of other beloved television series such as AMEN, THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR, and SISTER SISTER.
But it was the role of George Jefferson that both made Sherman Hemsley’s career and broke ground on American television. First as Archie Bunker’s neighbor on ALL IN THE FAMILY in 1972 and then on his own series THE JEFFERSONS in 1975, George Jefferson was definitely a character of his times. Through the 60s and 70s, as African-Americans were struggling for civil rights in “the real world,” the race barrier was breaking on television, too. GOOD TIMES, which began in 1974, and THE JEFFERSONS became the first regular series with an all- or predominantly-black cast of characters in prime-time television.
GOOD TIMES featured the Evans family who used their sense of humor and the strength of their family to overcome poverty, crime, discrimination, and many other problems faced by black families.
THE JEFFERSONS was a very different story. George Jefferson was a successful entrepreneur and businessman who was using his money to help his family “move on up.” He moved with his wife and son into a luxury high-rise on Manhattan’s upper East Side. Essentially a “fish-out-of-water” story, George Jefferson showed both black and white views that people of color could escape the old neighborhoods and make their way into parts of life previously off-limits to them.
And the show made us laugh at the same time. George Jefferson was described by the show’s producers as an angry little bantam rooster of a man — the exact opposite of the gentle Sherman Hemsley — but it was George’s over-the-top reactions to the world around him that pumped humor into the often poignant and controversial situations on the show.
But through it all, the loud, brash, insulting George Jefferson was still an object of affection to the audience, and that is testimony to the show’s writers and the acting talents of Sherman Hemsley.
Mr Hemsley, both you and George Jefferson will be missed.