EL PASO, TX (PIX11)—Actor Sherman Hemsley, best known for his role as George Jefferson in the hit “The Jeffersons”, died Tuesday according to TMZ.
He died at his home in El Paso, Texas, at the age of 74. His body was reportedly found by his maid, who initially though that he was sleeping, but called the police after she was unable to wake him. Hemsley wasn’t married and had no children.
Norman Lear, who also created “Sanford and Son” and “Good Times,” originally tried to cast Mel Stewart as the father in the Jefferson family. “We had a terrific actor, but he didn’t feel like he should be, so we made him an uncle,” Lear said in a past interview. “Then I remembered from Purlie Victorious, a musical in which (Hemsley) sang, he danced -- I remembered Sherman Hemsley and knew in a flash we had the father.”
Hemsley was born in South Philadelphia and moved to New York to pursue acting while working at the Post Office during the day.
Hemsley credits his upbringing in Philadelphia for the swagger and attitude that made him a 70s sitcom icon. Hemsley thanks South Philly for his famous strut, “We used to practice these walks in Philadelphia when I was growing up,” he said in an interview for the Archive of American Television. “Because you have to go through different neighborhoods so you gotta act (with) an attitude like, ‘What you lookin’ at? Yeah, it’s me,’ . . . so this fit right into the character.”
The show depicts the upward movement of a newly rich, black family from Queens, who finally achieved their dream of a "deluxe apartment in the sky." After leaving their old neighbor Archie Bunker in Queens, the setting of "All in the Family", "The Jeffersons" focuses on the family's sometimes testy relationships with their neighbors on the bourgeois Upper East Side.
Hemsley is believed to have died of natural causes.