Wednesday, July 25, 2012

'The Jeffersons' star Sherman Hemsley dies at 74

Actor Sherman Hemsley, famous for playing Archie Bunker's former neighbor George Jefferson in the "All in the Family" spin-off "The Jeffersons," has died. He was 74. Hemsley appears to have died from natural causes, TMZ, who first reported the news of his death, said. Sources say he was discovered by his nurse who initially thought that the actor was sleeping. On "The Jeffersons," Hemsley played a dry-cleaning tycoon who'd worked his way up from a small store to a chain. Isabel Sanford played his wife Louise, whom George often called Weezie, and Marla Gibbs played the couple's maid, Florence.

The iconic star, who rose to fame after his appearances on “All in the Family” and ultimately the spinoff, “The Jeffersons” was also a professional singer. Hemsley was born in Philadelphia and ultimately dropped out of high school to join the Air Force, People magazine reports. He later worked for the U.S. Postal Service before turning to show business. “The Jeffersons,” which ran earned Hemsley both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

As with producer Norman Lear's "All in the Family," the show didn't shy away from racial humor and jokes. Hemsley's George was in his own way as stubborn and prejudiced as Archie Bunker, regularly trying to exploit his own maid, and often delivering jokes at the expense of Helen and Tom Willis, a married couple of different races. "The Jeffersons" ran from 1975 to 1985. After that show ended, Hemsley moved on to star as Deacon Earnest Frye on the sitcom "Amen."

Hemsley also performed on Broadway and appeared on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "The Hughleys" and "Clunkers." He also voiced Triceratops B.P. Richfield on Jim Henson's "Dinosaurs."

In 1989, he released a single, "Ain't That A Kick in the Head." Hemsley never married and has no children. He was living in El Paso, Texas at the time of his death.

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