Isabel Sanford

Isabel Sanford played the part of Louise Jefferson, better known to TV audiences as "Weezie", on the series.

Personal Information
Nationality American
Birthname Eloise Gwendolyn Sanford
Born: (1917-08-29)August 29, 1917
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.
Died July 9, 2004(2004-07-09) (aged 86)
Deathplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active: 1930s–2002
Spouse(s): William Edward "Sonny" Richmond (m.?–1961)
Awards won Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (The Jeffersons, 1981)
Character information
Character played: Louise "Weezy" Jefferson on All in the Family and The Jeffersons
Jeffersons Wiki Script Gold

Isabel Sanford (August 29, 1917 – July 9, 2004) was a veteran stage, film and television actress best known for her role as Louise "Weezy" Jefferson on the CBS sitcom All in the Family (1971–1975), which was the parent series to The Jeffersons (1975–1985). She was the first African American actress to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Early lifeEdit

Sanford was born Eloise Gwendolyn Sanford in Harlem, New York, to James Edward and Josephine Sanford (nee Perry). She was the youngest of seven children, but was the only one to survive beyond infancy. Josephine Sanford was devoutly religious and insisted that Sanford attend church every Sunday and occasionally made her attend on weeknights. As a teen, Sanford aspired to be an actress but her mother discouraged her dream as she felt that show business was "the road to degradation". Sanford disobeyed her mother and began performing at local clubs behind her mother's back.[1] She also performed at amateur night at the Apollo Theater.[2] After graduating from high school, Sanford joined Harlem's American Negro Theater and the Star Players. She made her professional stage debut in 1946 in On Strivers Row and appeared in several off-Broadway productions while also working as a keypunch operator at IBM. [3]

Sanford later married house painter William Edward "Sonny" Richmond and had three children. Their marriage was tumultuous and they later separated.[2]


After separating from her husband, Sanford and her three children relocated to California in 1960 where Sanford continued acting in stage productions, television and film. Soon after her arrival, she was asked to join the national production of Here Today by actress Tallulah Bankhead. In 1965, she made her Broadway debut in James Baldwin's The Amen Corner. The role lead to her being cast in the 1967 film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. In the film, Sanford portrayed the role of the maid Tillie Binks which earned her good reviews. She caught the attention of major Hollywood players, including Norman Lear, who cast Sanford in the role of Louise Jefferson in All in the Family. Sanford and her TV husband, Sherman Hemsley, were so popular that the characters was spun off into their own series, The Jeffersons. Although initially reluctant to take the role because she was already working steadily, the series was an immediate hit with audiences and ultimately ran for eleven reasons. For her role on the series, Sanford earned five Golden Globe Award nominations, and seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations. She won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1981, making her the first African American actress to win in that category.

After The Jeffersons was canceled in 1985, Sanford continued her career with guest starring role in television and film. In January 1987, she starred in her own sitcom Isabel's Honeymoon Hotel, which aired five days a week in syndication. The series was created to showcase Sanford comedic skills, but it failed to attract an audience and was quickly cancelled. [4]

In the 1990s, Isabel was mostly limited to guest TV appearances and cameo appearances in movies, appearing on Dream On, Living Single, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, In the House and The Steve Harvey Show, and Hearts Are Wild. In 1996 Sandford starred the action movie "Original Gangstas" set in urban Gary, Indiana starring Blaxploitation film stars such as Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Jim Brown, and Richard Roundtree. Sanford later reprised her role as Louise Jefferson in a touring company of "The Real Live Jeffersons" stage show in the mid-1990s alongside Sherman Helmsely. She and Hemsley also made cameo appearances in films such as Sprung, Mafia! and two episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The two also appeared in with Hemsley in a series of advertisements for Denny's and Old Navy.

She also voiced characters on three other animated series including [[Wait Till Your Father Gets Home', A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Pepper Ann. In her final television role, she appeared as herself on The Simpsons episode "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore", which aired in February 2004.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

Sanford was married to house painter William Edward "Sonny" Richmond. The couple had three children: Pamela, Wahli and Sanford. The couple later separated. Richmond died in 1961 after being injured in fight.


In September 2003, Sanford underwent surgery on an artery in her neck. In the ensuing months, her health steadily declined. She was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on July 4, 2004 where she died five days later. Her publicist did not announce a cause of death, instead attributed it to "natural causes".[6] She was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. In January 2004, Isabel Sanford received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to the television industry. Sanford's star is located at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.[7]


  1. Robinson, Louie (January 1976). "The Jeffersons". Ebony (Johnson Publishing Company) 31 (3): 114. ISSN 0012-9011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Shattuck, Kathryn (July 13, 2004). Isabel Sanford, 86, Actress Who Portrayed Mrs. Jefferson. Retrieved on February 24, 2013.
  3. Isabel Sanford Biography. Retrieved on February 24, 2013.
  4. "SANFORD'S 'HONEYMOON HOTEL' DOES SLOW BUSINESS", Daily News of Los Angeles, January 14, 1987. Retrieved on February 24, 2013. 
  5. Du Vernay, Denise (2010). . McFarland. ISBN 0-786-45692-2.
  6. Isabel Sanford dies in Los Angeles hospital. (July 12, 2004). Retrieved on February 24, 2013.
  7. Hollywood Star Walk. Retrieved on February 24, 2013.