Sherman Hemsley, who entertained millions as self-made man George Jefferson on All in the Family and The Jeffersons, died at his home in El Paso, Texas, at the age of 74 from natural causes.
But was Hemsley in our family?
He never came out officially but rumors, both with substance and without, circulated that he was gay. Hemsley, who later appeared on Amen, never married and, as The Advocate reminds us, was cited in a 2007 VH1 story about popular black gay actors from days of yore. (Speaking of which, what was the deal with Mister Bentley? Was he gay or just British? We could never tell.)
In the end, of course, it doesn’t really matter if he was gay or not. Hemsley brought laughter to our hearts and we’ll miss him.
Of course, through The Jeffersons, Hemsley helped change American attitudes about minority issues like discrimination, reverse racism and interracial marriage—and even some issues particular to the LGBT community. We recall watching an old episode back when Nick At Nick was airing reruns. In it, George is stunned to find out an old buddy of his has gone through gender-reassignment surgery and is now a particularly stunning woman. This was years before anyone even heard the term “politically correct,” but we have to give the cast, writers and executive producer Norman Lear for presenting the situation with dignity and humor. Check out the clip below.
Photos: CBS, Tabercil