Amp Events has announced that rock icons Pixies will be touring South Africa in March next year!

Meet Iain Thomas, the 36-year-old South African poet who is famous all over the world except in SA

Jeffersons star Sherman Hemsley dies

2012-07-25 10:49
Sherman Hemsley

Chicago - Actor Sherman Hemsley, who rose to fame in the 1970s as the wise-cracking father in the hit sitcom The Jeffersons, has died at the age of 74, police said on Tuesday.

Hemsley was found dead in his El Paso, Texas home. No foul play is suspected, local police said in a statement.

The Jeffersons was one of the longest-running US television shows with a predominantly black cast. It focused on how the family adjusted to its newfound affluence after the success of a dry cleaning business.

The show explored serious themes such as race and class - and Hemsley's character George Jefferson was a notable bigot who did not like the interracial marriage of his neighbours in the upscale Manhattan apartment.

Interracial marriage

"It was groundbreaking," Hemsley said in a 2003 interview with the Archive of American Television.

"We were worried about the interracial marriage - and said 'Oh wow, it's going to get us cancelled because nobody had done it before'."

But reaction to the show was largely positive, Hemsley said, adding he was surprised at how well George Jefferson was received.

The show was not as overtly political as All in the Family, in which the Jeffersons were first introduced as neighbours to an even more notable bigot, Archie Bunker.

Born in Philadelphia on 1 February 1938, Hemsley was introduced to acting as a child but did not consider it as a career choice until after he left the Air Force.

He moved to New York, working at the post office by day and taking acting classes at night.

His big break came when he was cast in the Broadway show Purlie, catching the eye of All in the Family creator and writer Norman Lear.

Hemsley joined the cast in 1973 before moving on to The Jeffersons in 1975. He starred in 253 episodes before the show was cancelled in 1985.

Hemsley took on a softer role in the sitcom Amen in 1986, playing a religious deacon named Ernest Frye for five seasons.

He continued to perform in cameos and other smaller roles until as recently as last year, when he reprised the George Jefferson role on Tyler Perry's House of Payne.

Read more on:    celebrity deaths  |  tv  |  celebrities
NEXT ON CHANNEL24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Recent News

The Duchess of Cambridge has revealed how her daughter, Princess Charlotte, has inherited the British royal family's love of horses. Read More »

Prince William and Kate expressed their gratitude for the warm welcome they received from Canadians as they wrapped up their eight-day tour with their young children. Read More »

inside channel 24

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.