Sherman Hemsley, TV’s George Jefferson, dies at 74

Sherman Hemsley, a comic actor who vaulted from a supporting role on Norman Lear’s groundbreaking 1970s sitcom “All in the Family” to a lead role as George in the spinoff “The Jeffersons,” was found dead Tuesday in El Paso. He was 74.

The death was confirmed by the El Paso Sheriff’s Department, his agent, Todd Frank, told The Times.

As George Jefferson, Hemsley bantered with his white neighbors Archie and Edith Bunker in Queens on “All in the Family.” On “The Jeffersons,” Hemsley showed sparkling chemistry with Isabel Sanford, who played his wife, Louise, as the African American family began “movin’ on up to the East Side” of Manhattan.

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The series was the first to feature an upscale African American couple in prime time. It was also the first to cast an interracial couple. Hemsley earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his role as the irascible business owner. Sanford, who died in 2004, was his foil as the strong-willed and level-headed “Weezie.”

The spinoff ran on CBS from 1975 to 1985 and when it was canceled it was the longest-running prime-time series on the air.

Hemsley later starred as Deacon Ernest Frye on “Amen,” which aired from 1986 to 1991, and made other TV appearances during a long acting career.

He was born Feb. 1, 1938, in Philadelphia, where he trained at the Philadelphia Academy of Dramatic Arts.

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