Actor Sherman Hemsley, better known to many as the infamous George Jefferson on the hit CBS sitcom “The Jeffersons,” was reportedly found dead Tuesday at his home in El Paso, TX. Early reports said the actor died of natural causes. He was 74.
“The Jeffersons” was one of my favorite shows to watch growing up. I was locked in front of the TV from the moment that hand-clapping theme song could be heard until the end of the program. Hemsley portrayed a variety of characters throughout his lengthy career, but he brought something special to the character of George Jefferson that made his witty sarcasm and brutal banter with his maid Florence (Marla Gibbs) enjoyable enough to watch week after week for a total of 11 seasons. Hemsley crafted George into a person that many people could relate to (Wait. Maybe I should change that to “who many black people could relate.”) Even though he wasn’t the most tactful person when it came to his delivery, George said the things many of us wanted to say but didn’t, humbled himself when need be and strutted proudly when all was well with the world (his world anyway).
Anyone who’s watched the show knows that George wasn’t a saint by any means, but when he wasn’t busy calling someone out of their name the grumpy dry cleaner with the rags-to-riches bio served as an example to us all, demonstrating that no matter where you come from you can do anything if you put your mind to it. He was proof that perseverance and hard work could take you out of the ghetto and into “a deluxe apartment in the sky”. He reminded viewers not to be ashamed of themselves, to stand up for whatever they believed in, and to not be intimidated by ANYBODY. Watch the reruns. The messages are there for us to take in over and over again.
Sherman Hemsley brought one of the most complex yet likeable characters ever created to TV and made us laugh and learn a little somethin’-somethin’ to better ourselves in the process. Rest in peace Mr. Hemsley. You will be missed.
Until next time…
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