If you’re like me, you grew up in a household where, whenever Amen or The Jeffersons was on Nick-At-Nite, the channel wasn’t changing until the episode was done and even now, it’s become habit to sing along when you hear the words, “Fish don’t fry in the kitchen/ Beans don’t burn on the grill” (in much the way today’s younger generation is compelled into rapping once THEY hear the words, “In West Philadelphia, born and raised/ On the playground where I spent most of my days…”). The man most famous from most of these shows, Sherman Alexander Hemsley, passed away today. He was 74.

Unlike many Black male comedians of the 1970s and 1980s such as Redd Foxx, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor, Hemsley actually started out on stage rather than the stand-up circuit, working with the renowned Negro Ensemble Company. He would eventually be written into the popular CBS sitcom All in the Family, to serve as a foil to Caroll O’Connor’s wisecracking – and racist – character Archie Bunker. Hemsley’s role on Family as Bunker’s neighbor George Jefferson led to many memorable tirades between the two characters, and George became so popular that Family’s creator Norman Lear came up with an entirely new series for him in the form of The Jeffersons. You all know how that story ends (and the now-iconic status that “George and Weezy” share with CBS’s other Black couple “James and Florida” from Good Times).

Helmsey would follow up his run on The Jeffersons with yet another successful sitcom in the 80s, Amen, where he played Deacon Ernest Frye; and would play a lesser-known but just as well-received role on the ABC series Dinosaurs. Helmsley attempted to get back into being at the head of a sitcom with the short-lived UPN comedy Goode Behavior. While Goode turned out to be epically bad, it was well understood how much Helmsley had contributed to the culture of Black comedy, and hence he found himself in many memorable cameos on the likes of The Hughleys, Sister, Sister, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, and more.

Hemsley will forever be remembered for his rambunctious, loud comical style and braggadocios manner, one that his characters embodied fully, but that was quite the contrast to his humble real-life persona. Oh, and of course, for the “Wobble Walk.” He joins the long list of Black comedic legends like Bernie Mac who passed way too soon, and of pioneering Black entertainers in general that have died in 2012 alone. Rest in Power.

[via TMZ]