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'The Jeffersons' Actor Sherman Hemsley Was Buried Over 100 Days Late in 2012 Due to Legal Issues

Olawale Ogunjimi
Apr 26, 2020
03:30 P.M.
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American actor Sherman Hemsley of "The Jeffersons" fame died on July 24, 2012, but wasn't buried until November 2012, following a legal battle over his remains. 


The drama that played out after the death of Sherman Hemsley, who portrayed the wise-cracking character of George Jefferson in the hit comedy series of the 70s, "The Jeffersons," was shocking, to say the least. 

The actor's body was left in the mortuary three and a half months after his death from lung cancer, after a man, Richard Thornton, surfaced, claiming he was the late actor's half-brother. 

Actor Sherman Helmsley speaks at the MTV Networks Upfront 2003 presentation to advertisers at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden on May 6, 2003. | Photo: Getty Images


Thornton didn't stop at that claim; he also challenged the validity of the will Hemsley had left behind, where he left all of his possessions in the hands of his close friend and business partner, Flora Enchinton. 

The actor, who died at the age of 74, also didn't have any relatives or family members alive at the time of his death; thus Thornton's claims threw a spanner in the works for the actor's burial plans. 

Actor Sherman Hemsley arrives at the LG's Mobile TV Party held at Paramount Studios on June 19, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. | Photo: Getty Images


Thornton claimed that he should be the one in charge of Hemsley's burial arrangements, adding that he wanted the late actor to be buried in a veterans' cemetery in Philadelphia, which is where the actor grew up. 

These claims were rebuffed by Enchinton, who said that Thornton, in making such claims, was being disrespectful and only wanted Hemsley's money. She also added that in all her years of being Hemsley's close friend, he never mentioned that he had a brother. 

The DNA results, however, didn't matter in the end, because it was proven that Hemsley's will was valid.

Actress Isabel Sanford and Actor Sherman Hemsley at the 2nd Annual TV Land Awards held on March 7, 2004. | Photo: Getty Images


Enchinton also said that all she wanted was to give her friend a befitting burial, and she eventually got her wish when an El Paso judge ruled in her favor, finding Hemsley's will valid. 

The lawyer who wrote the will and a nurse also testified, saying that Hemsley was competent and mentally alert at the time the will was written. Another friend of the actor also said that Hemsley took Enchinton as his only family and didn't want to return to Philadelphia. 

DNA samples confirmed Thornton's claims of being Hemsley's half-brother, although they never spoke to each other, and that their family kept Hemsley's birth a secret because he was born as a result of an extramarital affair. 


Actor Sherman Helmsley, of the 1970s television show "The Jeffersons," poses backstage at the MTV Networks Upfront 2003 presentation to advertisers on May 6, 2003. | Photo: Getty Images

The DNA results, however, didn't matter in the end, because it was proven that Hemsley's will was valid, thus giving the person named in the will full control of his burial arrangements and assets. 


During the dispute, Enchinton spoke to reporters and said that the situation gave her an ugly and desperate feeling and that it was very much emotional for her to wake up with the knowledge that Hemsley was still in the mortuary. 

Actor Sherman Hemsley attends the 2nd Annual TV Land Awards held on March 7, 2004 at The Hollywood Palladium, in Hollywood, California. | Photo: Getty Images


Another legal battle connected to Hemsley was between William Little and David Pullman, who bought the right to his residual income in 2005 when Hemsley was bankrupt. 

Little and Pullman went into a legal battle spanning eight years, after the former sued the later, alleging that the agreement they signed was illegal, and sought its rescission. Little later said the deal was okay, but that he wanted its dissolution.