EL PASO, Texas — The embalmed body of actor Sherman Hemsley, who became famous for his role as television’s George Jefferson, will be kept in refrigeration at an El Paso funeral home until a local court rules on the validity of his will.
In the will Hemsley signed six weeks before dying of lung cancer on July 24, he named Flora Enchinton, 56, whom he called a “beloved partner,” as sole beneficiary of his estate, which is estimated in court documents to be more than $50,000.
The will is being contested by Richard Thornton of Philadelphia, who claims to be Hemsley’s brother and says the will might not have been made by the actor.
Enchinton told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she had been friends with Hemsley and had been his manager for more than 20 years. Over that time, she, Hemsley and Hemsley’s friend Kenny Johnston, 76, lived together, and Enchinton said Hemsley never mentioned any relatives.
“Some people come out of the woodwork — they think Sherman, they think money,” Enchinton said. “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.”
Mark Davis, listed in court documents as Thornton’s lawyer in El Paso, did not immediately respond to messages left at his office.
There is no date set for the case to be heard, court officials said. Enchinton said she hopes it will all be cleared in court.
The Philadelphia-born Hemsley played Jefferson in the CBS sitcom “All in the Family,” then starred in the spinoff “The Jeffersons” from 1975 to 1985. It was one of TV’s longest-running and most successful sitcoms, particularly noteworthy for its predominantly black cast.
Hemsley made George Jefferson — the bigoted, blustering Harlem businessman — one of TV’s most memorable characters and a symbol for urban upward mobility.