Actor Sherman Hemsley, who portrayed bigoted George on the long-running sitcom The Jeffersons, has died at age 74, reports People.
Hemsley died at his home in El Paso, Texas, and there are no known survivors. The actor first gained public notice with a guest appearance as Jefferson on Norman Lear's hit All in the Family. Reaction was so strong that Lear developed a spin-off around the character, which would premiere to huge ratings in 1975.
While there was no official confirmation during his lifetime, there was frequent speculation that Hemsley 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. The story also references a frequent but unsubstantiated rumor that Hemsley's sexual orientation led to problems on the set with Jeffersons costar Isabelle Sanford.
Besides his career-defining role as George Jefferson in the comedy which ran for eleven seasons on CBS, Hemsley was an accomplished theater actor. He appeared on Broadway in the musical Purlie, starred in numerous television commercials, and co-starred on another hit sitcom Amen from 1986-91.