The embalmed body of actor Sherman Hemsley, best known for portraying TV's George Jefferson, is being kept refrigerated in a funeral home in El Paso, Texas, until a local court decides on the validity of his will, reports Associated Press.
Richard Thornton, who claims to be Hemsley's brother, is disputing a will the actor signed six weeks prior to his death from lung cancer at age 74 on July 24. In it Hemsley named Flora Enchinton as sole beneficiary of his estate, valued at more than $50,000. Hemsley also refers to Enchinton as a "beloved partner."
Enchinton says she had been friends with Hemsley and had even been his manager for more than two decades. During this time she lived with Hemsley and Hemsley's friend Kenny Johnston, 76. Enchinton tells AP Hemsley never mentioned any relatives.
"Some people come out of the woodwork — they think Sherman, they think money," Enchinton tells AP. "But the fact is that I did not know Sherman when he was in the limelight. I met them when they [Hemsley and Johnston] came running from Los Angeles with not one penny, when there was nothing but struggle."
While there was no official confirmation during his lifetime, there was frequent speculation that Hemsley, famed for his portrayal of the bigoted dry cleaning mogul on the hit sitcom The Jeffersons, was a gay man. A 2007 VH1 story that listed three favorite allegedly gay black actors from the past put Hemsley in the top spot.