Redd Foxx's Life before 'Sanford and Son' Fame & the Years Preceding His Death at 68

Joe Akins
Dec 16, 2019
01:40 A.M.
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Redd Foxx was a talented actor and comedian, and star of the hit series "Sanford and Son." He died in 1991 following a heart attack while on the set of the CBS series, "The Royal Family."


He was a beloved entertainer with a huge global reputation after his starring portrayal of the character Fred Sanford in the sitcom, "Sanford and Son."

During his time as Fred Sanford, Redd Foxx was noted in one of the episodes for grabbing his heart, staggering and looking towards heaven, saying: "This is the big one, Elizabeth." So it was only ironic that he would die on set of a heart attack in 1991.

Redd Foxx wearing a blue pinstripe suit; circa 1970; New York | Photo: Getty Images




Redd died on October 11, 1991, after suffering a massive heart attack while on the set of "The Royal Family." After experiencing the attack, he was rushed to Queen of Angels Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, where he died after three hours. 

Foxx's friend of 40 years and co-star in the CBS series, Della Reese, thought Redd was playing after he suffered the attack, as he was used to doing. Reese said:

"He had been playing around. He had been joking around and kidding. Redd was always doing something funny. I thought he took a pratfall. But if it had been him being funny he would have gotten up." 


Actor Redd Fox in the TV series Sanford and Son (1972-1977) | Photo: Getty Images


According to Prince Spencer, Foxx's lifelong friend, the comedian's last word when he dropped to the floor was, "I can't breathe. Where's Ka Ho? (His bride of three months). 


Many people knew Foxx Redd as a stage comedian and likable character on television, but when not on stage or acting, he was a

Redd moved to Chicago at age 13 and joined a band. He soon moved to New York, where he became a comedian, performing in black nightclubs and theatres. 

Red Foxx sighted on July 21, 1982 at Dangerfield's in New York City | Photo: Getty Images


Family and friends praised Foxx Redd as a warm and gentle being who loved the human race. Della Reese described him as a poet, exceptional clown, sensitive, and loving man. 

His love for poetry was seen by all when an incomplete poem he wrote for his wife was read to the audience at his funeral. In the poem, Redd stated how much he loved her and was willing to give his life for her.

Comedian Redd Foxx performing on stage | Photo: Getty Images



Another friend of Foxx, Rev. O.C Smith, said that Redd knew how to laugh and taught him the power of laughter. On the day of his funeral, many of his friends paid a glowing tribute to him. Wearing a cap, Redd gave to him, Col. Tom Parker said:

"I'm here to wear the cap my friend gave to me 10 years ago. Redd Foxx was a superstar the day he was born and still is one."

Redd Foxx meant different things to many people, but one thing that stood out is that he was well respected and loved by them, and is greatly missed. 

Redd Foxx appearing on "Wide World of Entertainment: Salute to Redd Foxx" in 1974 | Photo: Getty Images



Redd Foxx was born in 1922 as John Elroy Sanford in St. Louis. He got the nickname Redd due to his ruddy complexion, while the name Foxx was given to him by a baseball player, Jimmie Foxx. 

Redd moved to Chicago at age 13 and joined a band. After this, the late actor moved to New York, where he became a comedian, performing in black nightclubs and theatres. 

Red Foxx and guest attend Sunair Humanitarian Tribute Honoring Groucho Marx on March 23, 1976 | Photo: Getty Images


He got his big break in 1972 with the series "Sanford and Son" before going on to join ABC. He soon began his own show, "The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour," which didn't last long, and later on, "The Redd Foxx Show," which wasn't very successful.

Redd Foxx, during his lifetime, paved the way for many black comedians, especially after the release of his comedy album, "Laff of the Party." He is an icon who will always be fondly remembered for generations to come.