Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Actor Sherman Hemsley turns 74 years old today. Hemsley was born February 1, 1938, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was raised in South Philadelphia by his mother, who was a factory worker. He dropped out of school and joined the Air Force, where he served for four years. After leaving the Air Force, he returned to Philadelphia where he worked for the Post Office during the day while attending acting school at night. He then moved to New York, continuing to work for the Post Office during the day while working as an actor at night. He starred as the character Gitlow in the early 1970s Broadway play Purlie. While Hemsley was on Broadway with Purlie, Norman Lear called him in 1971 to play the role of George Jefferson on his burgeoning new sitcom, All in the Family. Hemsley was reluctant to leave his theatre role, but Lear told him that he would hold the role open for him. Hemsley joined the cast two years later. The characters of Hemsley and co-star Isabel Sanford were secondary on All in the Family, but were given their own spin-off series, The Jeffersons, less than two years after Hemsley made his debut on the show. Such was Hemsley's and Sanford's compatibility and credibility as a married couple that no one seemed to notice or care that in real life Sanford was twenty years older than Hemsley. The Jeffersons proved to be one of Lear's most successful shows, enjoying a run of 11 seasons through 1985.