Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Veteran actor of stage and television, Sherman Hemsley has died.

According to TMZ, the actor best known for his television characters George Jefferson of “The Jefferson” and Deacon Ernest Frye of “Amen” died today at his home in El Paso, Texas of natural causes.

Hemsley began his acting career as a stage actor in his native Philadelphia. He would later make his Broadway debut in the 70’s with the musical Purlie and toured with that show for one year. During that time, television writer and producer Norman Lear asked Hemsley to join the cast of his new sitcom, “All in the Family.” It took Hemsley two years to join the cast but this role would change Hemsley life forever.

He was paired with actress Isabel Sanford to play the Black neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker, the two white lead characters for “All in the Family.” Hemsley and Sanford’s characters, George and Louise Jefferson were so well liked by television viewers, that Lear created a spin-off simply called The Jefferson. This show would go on to air for 11 seasons, becoming the longest-running sitcom with a predominately Black cast in the history of American television. Isabel Sanford would also become the first Black actress to win a Lead Actress Emmy Award for her role as Louise “Weezy” Jefferson in 1981.

After The Jeffersons, Hemsley appeared in another popular sitcom called “Amen” where he played the cantankerous Deacon Ernest Frye. This sitcom introduced him to another generation of television viewers and ran for five seasons ending in 1994.

In the late 90’s Hemsley appeared on television shows and commercials along with cast mate Isabel Sanford before her death in 2004.

Sherman Hemsley was not married and had no children. He was 74.

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