The Jeffersons Wiki
George Jefferson
Personal Information
Gender: Male
Nickname Mr.J by Bentley
Born: July 30, 1930 (age 92)
Dry-Cleaning Business Owner
Ex-Janitor before 1968
Spouse(s): Louise Mills-Jefferson (m. 1952)
Children: Lionel Jefferson (son)
Related to: William T. Jefferson (father, deceased)
Olivia Jefferson (mother)
Henry Jefferson (brother)
Dusty Jefferson (cousin)
Bob Jefferson (cousin)
Ruby Jefferson (sister-in-law)
Raymond Jefferson (nephew)
Jessica Jefferson (granddaughter)
Maxine Mills (sister-in-law)
Jason Mills (nephew)
Julie Williams (niece)
Jenny Willis-Jefferson (daughter-in-law)
Emma (Aunt) {Sister of Oliva Jefferson) unnmaed grandfather unnmaed grandmother unnmaed grandfather unnmaed grandmother
Character information
Appeared on: The Jeffersons
First appeared:
in episode "Henry's Farewell"
(on All in the Family)
Character played by: Sherman Hemsley
Jeffersons Wiki Script Gold.png

George Jefferson is the protagonist, minor antagonist, and anti-hero on The Jeffersons. He is co-founder/president of Jefferson Cleaners on The Jeffersons. George is played by Sherman Hemsley on the American television sitcoms All In The Family (from 1973 until 1975) and its spinoff, The Jeffersons (1975–1985). George is the main character of the show, appearing in all 253 episodes of The Jeffersons.

Character overview[]

George Jefferson was born in Harlem, NY in about 1929 or 1930. He's an ambitious African-American entrepreneur who started and managed a successful chain of seven dry cleaning stores in New York City. His mother, Olivia, better known on the series as "Mother Jefferson", was supposedly a domestic, like wife Louise would be when they married, until they started up the dry-cleaning business around 1968. By receiving an insurance compensation of $3,200 for a car accident, he was able to start his business. The background on William Jefferson, George's father, is that he was a street maintenance worker in New York City, although George doctored up the story of his family in one episode, when he was interviewed by a reporter in order to impress him about his rags-to-riches story, intimating that they were Alabama sharecroppers. 

In a very early episode, George's wife Louise makes mention of a conversation she had with George's father after she and George were married about the Jeffersons family roots. However, the show's writers later applied a retroactive change in the continuity of George's father, such that he had died in 1939 when George was 10 years old. This left George to take care of his mother; therefore, George was unable to complete high school, having dropped out to join the US Navy during the Korean War, where he served shipboard duty as a cook. He began dating Louise when they were teenagers and married her upon his discharge from the Navy.

Before the Jeffersons' store opening and becoming rich, the family lived in a derelict section of Harlem. George had worked as a janitor, and Louise as a housekeeper.

George's brother Henry appeared in All in the Family during the lead-up to the spin-off of The Jeffersons. That character was created only because Sherman Hemsley was starring in the Broadway musical Purlie and not yet available to take on the part of George. Once Hemsley became available and joined the cast, the character of his brother became extraneous, and a result, Henry Jefferson never appeared on The Jeffersons. Henry's absence was attributed to his family's move to Chicago, but was mentioned one time when his son named Raymond (played by Gary Coleman), was sent to stay with his aunt Louise and uncle George after Henry and his wife had marital troubles. He turned out to be quite the trouble-maker, but had sense talked into him by Louise.

During All in the Family, Jefferson lived in a working-class neighborhood in the borough of Queens, next door to the Bunker family, with his wife Louise (Isabel Sanford) and son Lionel (Mike Evans). During the period, between 1971 and 1973, George's perpetual absence was explained as being a result of his refusal to set foot in his bigoted neighbor Archie Bunker's home, although in later episodes relationships between Jefferson and Bunker thawed somewhat. When the spin-off series The Jeffersons began in January 1975, George and his family had moved "to a deluxe apartment in the sky" on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Like his neighbor Archie Bunker, George Jefferson was frequently opinionated, rude, bigoted, prone to scheming and not particularly intelligent in a scholastic sense. Unlike Archie, however, George was more quick-thinking, and usually more clever. Frequently, plots in The Jeffersons revolved around George's usually dishonest schemes, which always ended in comedic failure and make a lot of money. Sometimes his schemes actually work or see the error of his ways, when people tell him how much of a jerk he is being. In the last episode of the series "Red Robbins" the combinded gags of George's big mouth and dishonest business practices result in his granddaughter Jessica Jefferson's scout troop loosing a chance to attend a scout troop jamboree!

George's recurring gag was meeting Mr Whittendale who is a banker and landlord of the apartment building that George and Louise lives at and George wants to get in good with him to help his dry cleaning business make more money. In one 3rd season farcical episode {A Case of Black and White}, George schemes to obtain a new client (a mixed-race couple) by inviting them and the Willises (also a mixed-race couple) to dinner. When the Willises realize that George is using them, they leave before the new client shows up. This makes George bribe Florence the maid and Ralph the doorman into pretending to be the Willises. Eventually the Willises return, and by pretending to be Florence and Ralph, they help George land the client, while trapping George into throwing them an extravagant anniversary party.

In a 5th season episode Episode:George's Dream George has a nightmare of the future: Louise is a wealthy widow; the Willis's and Florence are considerably older; Bentley is still the same; Jefferson Cleaners is owned by Leroy who turns out to be a financial genius; Amy Carter is President of the United States; Ralph the Doorman has gotten so much money from George's tips that he owns the apartment building and remarks how $500.00 is enough to buy a gallon of gasoline for his limo!

Like Archie Bunker, George Jefferson's personality softened somewhat as years passed. By The Jeffersons series finale in 1985, the frequent racism and interracial marriage plotlines of early seasons were replaced with plots involving the Jeffersons' family life, as well as interactions with maid Florence (played by Marla Gibbs) and neighbors. George would form a grudging friendship with Tom Willis.

On the short lived series, E/R, George visited his niece, Julie Williams (played by Lynne Moody), a Chicago nurse.

Helmsley appeared as George twice on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", appearing along with Isabel Sanford as Louise, debating whether or not to buy the house Will Smith's character had lived in for the last several years from his aunt and uncle in the later episode.

Jefferson Cleaners[]

The third episode of All In The Family explained how George Jefferson started his dry-cleaning business. George Jefferson's son Lionel explains that the family used a $3,200 (around $18445.00, adjusted for current inflation) insurance settlement from a car accident to start Jefferson’s Cleaners. A Christmas flashback episode, which featured Sherman Hemsley playing his character's father, explained how he got the idea to open a dry cleaning business as a child after his father told him that dry cleaning was expensive.

This episode also showed how George had been involved in money-making schemes since childhood, with him working as a shoe-shine boy and paying a schoolmate to push people into mud puddles, forcing them to get their shoes shined. He started his opening his business in 1968 in Queens, earned enough money for three years to move into the suburbs of a working class neighborhood of Queens in 1971. George made enough money for two more years to start a chain of dry cleaning business and dry cleaning business in Manhattan. George and Louise has enough money to move up from Queens to Manhattan and left Queens in style with a limousine in Jeffersons move on up episode in All in the Family season 5. Now move in deluxe penthouse apartment in Manhattan and live the life of luxury.

George Jefferson’s chief business rival was Gil Cunningham, with whom George had a considerably antagonistic relationship. Later in the series, after Gil Cunningham died, the Jeffersons discovered that Gil never desired to be enemies with George. It was revealed that Gil's wife (played by future L.A. Law star Susan Ruttan), had been the motivator behind this competition all along. In his will, Gil left George the bowling trophy he won vs. Jefferson Cleaners, with a letter inside warning George to never trust her because “she put the ‘cunning’ in Cunningham.”

Gil was later proven right as Mrs. Cunningham, under the guise of still grieving over his passing, stole the idea from an ad campaign George was devising for Jefferson Cleaners, which stated that for every pound of laundry a customer would send in to be cleaned, they would be reimbursed one dollar. But in the end, after finding Gil's letter, George turned the tables on Mrs. Cunningham by bringing her all of the laundry from all seven of his cleaning stores and thereby forcing her to pay him a dollar for every pound, which amounted to $10,000.

A later season "flashback" episode of The Jeffersons depicted the day the very first Jefferson Cleaners store opened for business, which happened to be the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968; however, this contradicts the previous history established during All in the Family 's first season (in early 1971), where Lionel announced that his parents had just started their own dry cleaning business with money his father had received in a disability settlement. The second episode is Change for a Dollar, where George and Louise start their grand opening of Jefferson's Cleaners in Queens, New York. How George and Louise made their first dollar in their first store that lead them to chain of dry cleaners and made them wealthy.

All in the Family Appearances[]

The following is a list of All in the Family episodes featuring George Jefferson before and during The Jeffersons.

Season Four[]

  • Episode 6: "Henry's Farewell"
  • Episode 14: "Archie Is Cursed"
  • Episode 20: "Lionel's Engagement"
  • Episode 23: "Pay the Twenty Dollars"

Season Five[]

  • Episode 1: "The Bunkers and Inflation" (Part 1)
  • Episode 3: "The Bunkers and Inflation" (Part 3)
  • Episode 4: "The Bunkers and Inflation" (Part 4)
  • Episode 5: "Lionel the Live-In"
  • Episode 9: "Where's Archie?" (Part 2)
  • Episode 10: "The Longest Kiss"
  • Episode 12: "George and Archie Make a Deal"
  • Episode 13: "Archie's Contract"
  • Episode 18: "The Jeffersons Move on Up"
  • Episode 25: "Mike Makes His Move"

Season Eight[]

  • Episode 22: "Mike's New Job"

Cultural impact[]

The lingering cultural impact of the George Jefferson character is such that Michelle Obama, the wife of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, referenced George Jefferson in a June 2008 interview with the New York Times. Referring to an unfounded rumor discussed by a blogger that she had once used the word "whitey" in a speech, Michelle Obama told the Times: "You are amazed sometimes at how deep the lies can be . . . I mean, ‘whitey’? That’s something that George Jefferson would say. Anyone who says that doesn’t know me. They don’t know the life I’ve lived. They don’t know anything about me."[1]


"In the heat of the Night TV Series" episode "An necessary Evil" a polmygist is murdered in Jail-which of his six wives killed him? Chief Gillipse [Carrol O'Conner] must find out the truth. The victium J.J. Jefferson name is a spoof of George Jefferson.


  1. Michael Powell and Jodi Kantor. "Michelle Obama Looks for a New Introduction", New York Times, 2008-06-18. Retrieved on 2008-06-18. 

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