El PASO, Texas (Reuters) – Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played George Jefferson on “The Jeffersons,” a 1970s sitcom that was one of the first to focus on a black family’s move up the social ladder, has died at age 74 in El Paso, Texas, officials said on Tuesday.
He was found dead on Tuesday, El Paso police said in a statement. An autopsy will reveal the exact cause of death, but foul play is not suspected, police said.
Todd Frank, the actor’s agent, said in a statement: “He was not only a great client and actor and good friend … he was a very loyal human being.”
Hemsley’s best-known role was as George Jefferson, the affluent and sometimes scheming owner of a dry cleaning business who lived in a New York luxury apartment with his wife, Louise, and a son named Lionel.
“Movin’ On Up,” the gospel-flavored theme song of the show, that celebrated the Jeffersons’ economic rise and their claiming a “deluxe apartment in the sky,” became a pop culture classic.
“The Jeffersons” was a spinoff of creator Norman Lear’s show “All in the Family.” In that program, the Jeffersons were introduced as the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker.
“With the passing of Sherman Hemsley, the world loses one of its most unique comic talents and a lovely man,” Lear said in a statement.
“The Jeffersons” ran on television from 1975 to 1985. After that, the Philadelphia-born Hemsley went on to guest star in shows, including “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and had a role in the animated series “Family Guy.”
Hemsley was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1984 for outstanding actor in a comedy series for “The Jeffersons.” He was also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and David Crowder in El Paso; Editing by Gary Crosse and Stacey Joyce)