Sad to report, Sherman Hemsley was discovered dead by his nurse on Tuesday, July 25, in his El Paso home, having died of natural causes. Sherman Hemsley will be remembered, first, as the next-door neighbor to Archie and Edith Bunker (Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton) in the popular and controversial television sitcom All in the Family, important because it shaped our opinions on matters racial at a crucial time of change in America. All in the Family was seen by viewers weekly for 11 years, from 1968 until 1979
Spin-offs were something new then. All in the Family generated an early spin-off, The Jeffersons, the immensely successful saga of outspoken but lovable New York City dry cleaner George Jefferson (Hemsley), along with his tolerant wife Louise (Isabel Sanford) and their patient and wise-cracking housekeeper, Florence (Marla Gibbs). America enjoyed The Jeffersons weekly from January 1975 thru June 1985.
Hemsley went on, in Amen, from September 1986 until May 1991, to bring life to Deacon Frye of the First Community Church of Philadelphia (Hemsley’s actual hometown). His daughter in that series was a most memorable character, 36-year-old Thelma Frye (Anna Maria Horsford), “light of the life” of the Reverend Reuben Gregory (Clifton Davis). Life in Deacon Frye’s pastoral residence was full and delightful.
Sherman Hemsley was also a part-time musician and a friend to musical greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, as well as to stars including Bill Cosby. He had neither wife nor children.
Photo credit: the Museum of Broadcast Communications, Encyclopedia of Television