Sherman Hemsley, best remembered for his dimunitive in size but gargantuan in moxie TV character George Jefferson on The Jeffersons, died today in El Paso, Texas. It is unclear at this moment the cause of death, though initial reports are citing natural causes. Hemsley was 74 years old.
Born on February 1, 1938, in Philadelphia, Hemsley acted in local summer theater before landing the role that made him famous, successful dry cleaning tycoon George Jefferson. First appearing in 1973 on the sitcom All in the Family as the African-American neighbors of controversial character Archie Bunker, the Jefferson family eventually got their own spin-off show in 1975 called The Jeffersons, which showed how they were “movin’ on up” in life. The show went become one of TV’s all-time greatest and most successful sitcoms.
George’s wife on the show, “Weezie”, played by the late, Isabel Sanford, became the perfect foil for all of George’s in need of anger management blue-faced humorous predicaments on the program. She was one of the few, however, to put him in his place, and the comic tensions between the two created much laughter on the program.
After the ten year run of The Jeffersons, Hemsley had almost equal success as Reverend Deacon Frye on the sitcom Amen. That show ran for six seasons, and kept the Hemsley style of character – aggressive with a heart of gold – alive to another generation.
But it was always the character of George Jefferson that Hemsley will be most remembered for, the apoplectic, raging, racist, intense comedic masterpiece that came from the pens of the writers who worked for the great television producer Norman Lear (who produced All in the Family and The Jeffersons) and the surefooted approach Hemsley himself took to the character.
A toast in remembering a television legend, one who will never be forgotten and has his place in the annals of pop culture and television history.
RIP Sherman Hemsley
February 1, 1938 – July 24, 2012