Sherman Hemsley
Sherman Hemsley

Sherman Hemsley played the part of George Jefferson on the series.

Personal Information
Gender: Male
Nationality American
Ethnicity Black
Birthname Sherman Alexander Hemsley
Born: February 1, 1938
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died July 24, 2012(2012-07-24) (aged 74)
Deathplace: El Paso, Texas, U.S., of Aortic dissection
Actor/TV personality
Years active: 1970-2002, his death
Hometown Resided in El Paso, TX
Character information
Appeared on: All In The Family (1973-75)
The Jeffersons (1975-85)
Character played: George Jefferson, on both series
Jeffersons Wiki Script Gold

Sherman Alexander Hemsley (February 1, 1938 – July 24, 2012) was an American actor and comedian, best known for his role as George Jefferson on The Jeffersons parent series, the CBS television sitcom All In The Family and The Jeffersons, and then as Deacon Ernest Frye on the NBC-TV series Amen. He also played Earl Sinclair's horrifying boss, a Triceratops named B.P. Richfield, on the Jim Henson sitcom Dinosaurs.

Early lifeEdit

Hemsley was born and raised around 22nd and Christian Streets in South Philadelphia, PA by his mother, who worked in a lamp factory.[1] He did not meet his father until he was 14.[1] He attended Barrat Middle School, Central High School for 9th grade and Bok Technical High School for 10th, when he dropped out of school and joined the U.S. Air Force, where he served for four years. On leaving the Air Force, he returned to Philadelphia where he worked for the Post Office during the day while attending the Academy of Dramatic Arts at night.[1] He then moved to New York, continuing to work for the Post Office during the day while working as an actor at night. He starred as the character Gitlow in the early 1970s Broadway play Purlie.[2][3]



Sherman Hemsley performed with local groups in Philadelphia before moving to New York to study with Lloyd Richards at the Negro Ensemble Company. Shortly after, he joined Vinnette Carroll's Urban Arts Company appearing in these productions: But Never Jam Today, The Lottery, Old Judge Mose is Dead, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, Step Lively Boys, Croesus, and The Witch. He made his Broadway debut in Purlie and toured with the show for a year. In the summer of 1972 he joined the Vinnette Carroll musical Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope ensemble in Toronto, followed a month later in the American Conservatory Theater production at the Geary Theater. In this his production Hemsley performed the solos "Lookin' Over From Your Side" in Act I and "Sermon" in Act II.

Work with Norman LearEdit

While Sherman was on Broadway with Purlie, Norman Lear called him in 1971 to play the role of George Jefferson in his new sitcom, All In The Family. Hemsley was reluctant to leave his theatre role, but Lear told him that he would hold the role open for him. Hemsley joined the cast two years later. The characters of Hemsley and co-star Isabel Sanford were upporting roles on All In The Family, but were given their own spin-off, The Jeffersons, less than two years after Hemsley made his debut on the show. The Jeffersons proved to be one of Lear's most successful shows, enjoying a run of eleven seasons through 1985.

1980s, 1990s and 2000sEdit

Hemsley continued to work steadily after the show's cancellation, largely typecast in George-Jefferson-like roles. He teamed up with the show's original cast members when The Jeffersons moved to Broadway for a brief period. 

Hemsley joined the cast of NBC's Amen in 1986 as Deacon Ernest Frye, an unscrupulous church deacon. The show enjoyed a run of five seasons, ending in 1991. Hemsley then was a voice actor in the ABC-TV live-action puppet series Dinosaurs, where he played Bradley P. Richfield, main character Earl's sadistic boss. The show ran four seasons, ending in 1994.

Hemsley retired from television acting, although he and Isabel Sanford appeared together in the mid to late 1990s and in the early 2000s, reprising their roles in guest spots on such television programs as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, in commercials for The Gap, Old Navy and Denny's, and at dry cleaning conventions. He also starred with Sanford in a touring company of "The Real Live Jeffersons" stage show in the 1990s. He and Sanford also made a cameo appearance in the film Sprung. They continued to work together on occasion until Sanford began having the health problems that led to her death in 2004.

Hemsley made three appearances in the WB network sitcom Sister, Sister, appearing on the series as Ray Cambpell's father. He also made a voice appearance as himself in the Seth McFarlane FOX-TV network animated comedy Family Guy. He appeared in the film American Pie Presents: The Book of Love. In 2011, he reprised his role as George Jefferson once again, along with Marla Gibbs as Florence Johnston on TBS's Tyler Perry's House of Payne.

He was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2012.

Music careerEdit

In 1989, Hemsley, who had previously been a jazz keyboardist, released a single titled "Ain't That a Kick in the Head".[4] This was followed in 1992 with Dance, an album of rhythm and blues music.[5] Hemsley appeared on Soul Train around the time of the record's release, where he performed the song "Eyes in the Dark".[6]

Hemsley was a fan of 1970s progressive rock bands,[7] Gentle Giant, Gong,[8] and Nektar. In 1999, Hemsley collaborated with Yes lead singer Jon Anderson on an album titled Festival of Dreams which was not released.[9]

Personal life and deathEdit

Hemsley was a shy and intensely private man who was characterized by some as reclusive. He avoided the Hollywood limelight and little of his personal life was public knowledge beyond the facts that he never married and had no children.[10] In 2003, however, Hemsley granted a rare video interview to the Archive of American Television. "It [playing George Jefferson] was hard for me. But he was the character. I had to do it."[11]

On July 24, 2012, Hemsley died at his home in El Paso, Texas. He was 74 years old. The cause of death was a result of a cancerous mass on his lung, according to the El Paso County Texas Medical Examiner.[12][13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Schaffer, Michael D.. "‘Jeffersons’ star Sherman Hemsley dies at 74", July 24, 2012. Retrieved on August 14, 2012. 
  2. "Ask Monika", St. Petersburg Times, September 3, 1989, p. 64. 
  3. Claudia Rosenbaum. "Hemsley turns to stand-up comedy", The Washington Times, September 3, 1989, p. M2. 
  4. O'Neal, Sean (2012-07-24). R.I.P. Sherman Hemsley. The AV Club. Retrieved on 2012-07-25.
  5. Allmusic – Sherman Hemsley – Dance. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2012-07-25.
  6. Sherman Hemsley performs "Eyes in the Dark" on Soul Train (1992) – Bing Videos
  7. Condran, Ed (2001-05-20). Sherman Hemsley moves on up to Cherry Hill. Calkins Media. Retrieved on 2012-01-08.
  8. George Jefferson: World's Biggest Gong Fan. Magnet. Retrieved on 2012-07-25.
  9. Randall, Mac (1999-01-28). From 'The Jeffersons' To Yes With Sherman Hemsley. Yahoo! Music. Retrieved on 2011-01-06.
  10. Watkins, Mel (July 24, 2012). Sherman Hemsley, ‘Jeffersons’ Star, Is Dead at 74. The New York Times. Retrieved on July 28, 2012.
  11. Sherman Hemsley of 'The Jefferson's' fame, found dead in El Paso – Alamogordo Daily News
  12. Walsh, Michael. "Sherman Hemsley dead: 'Jeffersons' star dies at age 74", Daily News, July 24, 2012. Retrieved on July 24, 2012. 
  13. 'The Jeffersons' star Sherman Hemsley found dead at home – Indian Express

External linksEdit