Hemsley remembered through his works

Black History, Editorials

Sherman Hemsley alongside co-star Isabel Sanford in television sitcom The Jeffersons.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen, beans don’t burn on the grill! Took a whole lot of tryin’ just to get up that hill! Now we’re up in the big leagues, gettin’ our turn at bat.  As long as we livin’, it’s you and me baby, Ain’t nothing wrong with that.  We’re moving on up!

In Black America, this song represented our American dream and the Jefferson’s showed us that with hard work it would be possible to get our piece in the sky.

Sadly, main star of the Jefferson’s, Sherman Hemsley died on July 24 at age 74 of natural causes in his El Paso home.

Hemsley’s own life represented the ultimate success story.  He dropped out of his Philadelphia high school to join the air force, but later returned to Philly and worked at a post office while taking acting classes at night.  His big break came when he was performing on Broadway in New York in the production Purlie.  Television writer and producer Norman Lear was looking for a person to play a character that could stand up to Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker on All in the Family, and had the hunch that Hemsley would be his guy.  After 2 years of Lear waiting, Hemsley joined the cast and George Jefferson was born.

George Jefferson captured America’s heart with his sly remarks, hunger for success, smooth dance moves, no-nonsense personality and big remarks.  Within two years, he was the star of his own sitcom The Jeffersons.  The show took on current social issues such as racism, integrated marriage, poverty and education.  Hemsley played the ignorant, money driven father who made you fall out of your chair laughing with his zingers but also made your heart melt with his underlying compassion for his family and others.  Reruns of The Jeffersons are still watched today.

After the Jefferson’s, Hemsley went to play Deacon Frye on another black casted sitcom Amen. The show was a depiction of African American values through the black church, and Frye was the deacon from everyone’s childhood who made you laugh, but worked hard to keep things running and together.

Througout his life, Hemsley’s career continued to blossom with guest appearances in other sitcoms and commercials, and music albums.

As Hemsley moves on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky, we will forever remember the feeling he gave us of anything is possible.  Rest in paradise Sherman Hemsley.


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