‘Jeffersons’ star Hemsley dies at 74

  • NEW: Ex-co-star calls Hemsley "generous," says they were trying to create new show
  • Hemsley played George Jefferson on hit shows in the '70s
  • Hemsley, who also starred on "Amen," was 74
  • He was nominated for an Emmy in 1985, but lost to Bill Cosby

(CNN) -- Sherman Hemsley, who played the brash George Jefferson on "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," died Tuesday at age 74, his booking agent said.

Hemsley played Jefferson, a wisecracking owner of a dry cleaners, on "All In the Family" from 1973 until 1975, when the spinoff "The Jeffersons" began an 11-season run.

"I am shocked, and thought Sherman was doing very well," said Marla Gibb, who played the feisty maid Florence Johnston on the "The Jeffersons." "I am saddened to hear that Sherman has made his transition. We were trying to come up with a new show that we could participate in, but of course, that cannot happen now.

"Sherman was one of the most generous co-stars I have ever worked with. He happily set me up so that I could slam him, and I did the same for him. I shall miss him deeply."

Hemsley also played Deacon Ernest Frye in the sitcom "Amen."

"With the passing of Sherman Hemsley, the world loses one of its most unique comedic talents, and a lovely man," Norman Lear, the creator of "All in the Family," said in a statement.

In 2001, Lear told Larry King that he discovered Hemsley doing the Broadway play "Purlie."

EW: A tribute to George Jefferson

He remembered him "singing and dancing, and [Hemsley] was one of the most unique actors on the stage."

In 1990, he released an album, "Ain't That A Kick in the Head," and two years later another, entitled "Dance."

"I had the pleasure of working with him on 'House of Payne,' " said producer and director Tyler Perry. "He brought laughter and joy to millions. My childhood would have been a lot sadder without him. Thanks for the joy, thanks for your talent and thanks for your life. I celebrate it in all of its beauty. God bless you, Mr. Hemsley."

Hemsley was nominated for an Emmy in 1985, but lost to Bill Cosby.

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