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1970s Sitcom Star Dead at 74 People

An actor who became a big television star in the 1970s through a long-running CBS sitcom has died, People magazine reports. Sherman Hemsley, known for playing the fiery George Jefferson on “The Jeffersons,” was 74.

Hemsley, who also starred as Deacon Ernest Frye on the NBC series “Amen,” died today at his home in El Paso, Texas.

“The Jeffersons” had a run of 11 seasons from 1975 to 1985, racking up a total of 253 episodes. Hemsley, who originated the role of George Jefferson on “All in the Family,” received an Emmy nomination for “The Jeffersons” in 1984 and was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role in 1985.

He went on to a long string of TV appearances, both as a series regular and in guest roles. Among them, he appeared a number of times on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “The Hughleys,” and had a run as Willie Goode in “Goode Behavior” in the late 1990s.

More recently, Hemsley played Boss on “Clunkers” and made a guest appearance on “House of Payne,” both in 2011.

Born in South Philadelphia, Hemsley moved to New York to appear on Broadway playing Gitlow in “Purlie.” “While touring with the production, television writer and producer Norman Lear contacted Hemsley to play the role of Jefferson on his new sitcom, ‘All in the Family,’” the story reports. “Hemsley hesitated to accept but Lear held the role open for him and two years later, Hemsley joined the cast.

“Less than two years after Hemsley made his television debut, he and ‘All in the Family’ co-star Isabel Sanford were given their own spin-off in ‘The Jeffersons.’” Sanford died in 2004 at 86, the story notes.

The report adds: “He was also a professional singer and released a single on Sutra Record called ‘Ain't That a Kick in the Head’ in 1989. In 1992, he released ‘Dance,’ an R&B album.”

sherman-hemsley.jpgSherman Hemsley