Actor Sherman Hemsley, known for his roles as George Jefferson (All in the Family and The Jeffersons) and Deacon Frye (Amen), has passed away.
He was 74. The cause of death is unclear.
As a great article at the Huffington Post points out, Hemsley’s work on The Jeffersons greatly impacted the landscape of American television.
“As the longest-running series with a predominantly African American cast, the show was one of the first to portray a successful black family, paving the way for future sitcoms like “The Cosby Show” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” It was also the first series to prominently feature an interracial couple with the characters Helen and Tom Willis, using its makeup of colorful personalities to create humorous commentary about race in the United States at the time.
Making its debut in 1975, the show mimicked its parent series “All In The Family,” but instead focused on a black household. George Jefferson displayed his distrust of white people and shared his views on race in America with a fervor that rivaled Archie Bunker’s comical, yet stinging, opinions about minorities.
The show explored issues rarely discussed on television, and the characters’ frequent use of racially charged terms like “nigger” and “honky” placed the series in a class all its own. Although George and his wife Louise “Weezy” Jefferson’s sudden success catapulted them into a predominantly white world, they represented the epitome of black culture. Even the show’s popular theme song was reminiscent of the gospel tunes often heard in black churches.”
R.I.P. Sherman Hemsley