"The Jeffersons" actor Sherman Hemsley dies at age 74

El PASO, Texas Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:00pm EDT

Sherman Hemsley (L) and Isabel Sanford, the stars of the popular television series ''The Jeffersons'' pose as they arrive for the premiere screening of the new television special ''50 Years of Television'' in Los Angeles in this April 16, 1997 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files

Sherman Hemsley (L) and Isabel Sanford, the stars of the popular television series ''The Jeffersons'' pose as they arrive for the premiere screening of the new television special ''50 Years of Television'' in Los Angeles in this April 16, 1997 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser/Files

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El PASO, Texas (Reuters) - Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played George Jefferson on television in "The Jeffersons," a 1970s sitcom that was one of the first to focus on a black family, has died at age 74 in El Paso, Texas, his representative said.

"Sherman Hemsley has been pronounced dead El Paso Sheriff's Department has confirmed," the actor's agent Todd Frank said in a statement.

The cause and time of death was not immediately clear, and a sheriff's representative could not be reached for comment.

Hemsley's character of George Jefferson was the affluent and sometimes scheming owner of a dry cleaning business who lived in a New York luxury apartment with his wife, Louise. They had a son named Lionel.

"The Jeffersons," a spinoff of creator Norman Lear's more politically-oriented show "All In the Family." In that show, the Jeffersons were introduced as the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker.

"The Jeffersons" ran from 1975 to 1985, and after that show the Philadelphia-born Hemsley went on to guest star in everything from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to a role in the series "Family Guy."

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and David Crowder in El Paso)

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