CBS sitcom star Sherman Hemsley, 74, known for his boisterous portrayal of George Jefferson died Tuesday, July 24 in El Paso, Texas. As Jefferson, Hemsley played a successful dry cleaner that was often greedy and usually mean. The largely black cast of The Jeffersons' included his wife Louise (Weezy) Jefferson, Isabel Sanford, and his outspoken housemaid, Florence Johnston played by Marla Gibbs. George blustered his way through issues like racism, literacy and suicide, all in his New York City apartment building. Besides the cutting edge plot lines, the show was known for it's catchy theme song, "We're Moving On Up."
Hemsley played his character with plenty of bluster but gave Jefferson a heart by expressing his love, sometimes grudgingly,for his wife, family and friends. According to CNN, Hemsley says this about his character, "By me loving Louise and Archie loving (his wife) Edith, you got away with being goofy and stupid," he said in 2003. "Because people said at least he loved something."
His costar Marla Gibbs, was shocked to hear that Hemsley had passed away. "I thought Sherman was doing very well," said Marla Gibbs, who played feisty maid Florence Johnston on the "The Jeffersons." "I am saddened to hear that Sherman has made his transition. We were trying to come up with a new show that we could participate in, but of course, that cannot happen now."
Rock star Lenny Kravitz told Mercury News, "When I was a kid, Sherman would always take the time to hang out with me on set. We would listen to music and talk about it. He was very knowledgeable, and was a big rock 'n' roll fan. He was an extraordinary human being that made a huge difference with his talent. I will miss him." Kravitz' mother Roxie Roker played the role of Helen Willis on the show.
Sherman Hemsley never married or had children but his work as an actor reached several generations of fans. Besides acting in sitcoms like "Amen" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," he was also a musician. In the 1980's Hemsley played a keyboard in a jazz band and released a song called, "Ain't That a Kick in the Head."