The Man Behind George Jefferson and Other Iconic Roles

The Man Behind George Jefferson and Other Iconic Roles

Who is Sherman Hemsley?

Sherman Hemsley was an American actor best remembered for his role as George Jefferson in the popular television sitcoms “All in the Family” (1973-1978) and its spin-off “The Jeffersons” (1975-1985), among many other notable roles he had in his career.

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Sherman Hemsley Wiki: Age, Childhood, and Education

Sherman Alexander Hemsley was born on 1 February 1938, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. He was the son of Arsenia Hemsley Edwards Chisolm, but didn’t meet his father until he was 14 years old. He was raised by his mother, aunt and grandmother in a poor neighborhood in South Philadelphia, where he went to Barrat Middle School. He later attended Central High School before he moved to Bok Technical High School for tenth grade. However, he dropped out of school to join the US Air Force, where he spent the next four years.

After leaving the military, Hemsley returned to Philadelphia and worked as a clerk for the US Postal Service while pursuing his passion for theater. He attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts at night, and eventually moved to New York, where he continued his postal work and acting lessons by night.

Career Beginnings

While in Philadelphia, he performed with local groups, and when he moved to New York City, joined the Negro Ensemble Company, then the Vinnette Carroll’s Urban Arts Company, and worked on such productions as:

“The Lottery”,

“Old Judge Mose is Dead”,

“Moon on a Rainbow”,

“But Never Jam Today”

However, it was the part of Gitlow in the early ’70s Broadway musical “Purile” that earned him critical acclaim.

Sherman Hemsley, U.S. actor most well-known for his role as George Jefferson on The Jeffersons and All in the Family,…

Posted by The Jeffersons Fans on Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rise to Stardom

After his success in “Purlie”, Hemsley continued to work in theater, however, he was called by Norman Lear to play the recurring role of George Jefferson in his upcoming sitcom “All in the Family”. At first he was hesitant to accept the role, as he didn’t want to leave his theater work, but eventually joined the show two years later, and this was when his career took off.

His portrayal of George Jefferson spawned the spin-off series “The Jeffersons”, which premiered on 18 January 1975, and focused on the character of George Jefferson and his family’s life after they moved from Queens to a luxury apartment complex on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The show was an instant hit, and ran for 11 seasons, making it one of the longer-running sitcoms in television history. Hemsley’s success led to numerous accolades and awards, including two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

The show came to an abrupt end in 1985, but Sherman only learned about it in the newspapers – many fans were surprised, but also the cast members. Despite the cancelation, the series remains one of the most iconic sitcoms in the history of television.

Following the end of “The Jeffersons”, Sherman had a few minor roles before he was chosen for a part of the TV series “Amen”, which premiered in 1986 and ran for five seasons, with Hemsley playing Deacon Frye for the entire run of the show. The series followed the lives of the members of a church in Philadelphia, and though it didn’t live up to the success of “The Jeffersons”, it still helped Sherman’s career.

From 1991 to 1994, he voiced B.P. Richfield in the puppet show “Dinosaurs”, while from 1996 to 1997, he was Willie Goode in the sitcom “Good Behavior”, which followed the misadventures of the African-American Goode family that had recently moved into a predominantly white neighborhood. Hemsley’s character, Willie Goode, was a retired police officer who was trying to keep his family out of trouble and adjust to life in their new home, but it lasted only one season.

Before the ’90s ended, he made a few notable appearances, including in the TV series’ “Sister, Sister”, “City Guys”, and “The Hughleys”.

Career Decline

With the start of the 2000s, Sherman dedicated less time to acting. He joined forces with Isabel Sanford, his “The Jeffersons” co-star, to appear in their career roles in TV series and commercials, and they toured the US as “The Real Jeffersons stage show”.

To speak further of his accomplishments, he voiced himself in the animated comedy series “Family Guy” (2005), while in 2007, he was George O’Donnell in the film “For the Love of a Dog”.

Two years later, Sherman appeared in the comedy film “American Pie Presents: The Book of Love”, which starred Bug Hall, Kevin M. Horton, and Brandon Hardesty, while in 2011, he portrayed the Boss in the short-lived comedy series “Clunkers”.

His last on-screen role was in 2012, when he guest-starred as George Jefferson in the award-winning long-running TV sitcom “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne”, which stars Cassi Davis, LaVan Davis, and Allen Payne.

In addition to his acting work, Sherman was a jazz musician. He released the single “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” in 1989, then in 1992, he released his debut full-length album “Dance”. In his free time, he enjoyed the music of such bands as Yes, Gong, Nektar, and Gentle Giant.

Net Worth

According to sources, Sherman Hemsley’s net worth at the time of his death was estimated at $300,000.

Personal Life, Married, Wife, Children

Sherman Hemsley never married and didn’t have any children, however, he lived with his business and romantic partner, Flora Enchinton, and before his death, he signed the house over to her, but left no will. Upon his death, his estranged brother appeared and sought the estate, claiming he was the rightful heir. After a court battle, Flora was named the sole heir. However, she had to sell the house.


Sherman Hemsley passed away on 24 July 2012 at his home in El Paso, Texas. He was 74 years old, and the cause of his death was ruled as superior vena cava syndrome, a complication of lung and bronchial carcinomas. According to reports, he had a malignant mass in his lungs.

Due to the ongoing law battle, his body wasn’t buried for months. After the court ruled in favor of Flora, Sherman’s body was interred at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso.

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