John Amos and his late first wife, Noel J. Mickelson, got married when interracial couples were frowned upon, and the law banned interracial marriages. Still, they persevered. Here's their story.
Actor John Amos is known for series such as "Good Times," "Roots," and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show;" and films like "Coming to America," and "Die Hard 2." He has been in the entertainment industry for 50 years, but there's little known about his personal life.
John is reserved when it comes to his relationships and ex-wives. He's made sure to protect his family from the prying eyes of the media and fans, and only now that his children are grown-ups have they started sharing more about their family.
John Amos visits at SiriusXM Studios on October 10, 2017 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images
AN INTERRACIAL LOVE STORY
John Amos' first wife, Noel J. Mickelson, was also the mother of his only two children, Shannon and K.C Amos. Mickelson was a talented and nurturing white woman, but a very private one at that.
According to Shannon Amos, her parents' story started in college. John was playing football and studying sociology at Colorado State University when he met Mickelson, and it was love at first sight for them.
They were different in many ways. She was an Ashkenazi Jew and a descendant of Eastern Europe, while he had Ghanaian ancestry. She came from a small town in Iowa, and he hailed from Newark, New Jersey. Still, sparks flew between them.
John Amos at the Althea screening and panel discussion on Oct. 5, 2015 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images
Amos and Mickelson didn't care about race. Still, they were living in a time where the civil rights movement was at its peak as black people fought against segregation and institutionalized racial discrimination in the country.
By 1965, interracial marriage had been made illegal in at least 16 states, but that didn't deter Amos and Mickelson from marrying. It's unclear if their respective families approved the union, but the young couple didn't seem to mind.
In 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned legislation prohibiting interracial marriage, making John and Mickelson's wedding legal all over the U.S.
AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE
John and Mickelson welcomed their first child, daughter Shannon, a year before being recognized as a legal couple. Shannon's brother, K.C, was born in 1970.
Although John and Mickelson did their best to raise their children in a loving household where color didn't matter, the reality of living in an inherently racist society soon caught up with them.
In an Instagram post, Shannon shared that she was traveling with her family when she was five years old when they pulled up to a gas station in Arizona. There, a white man came out with a gun that he aimed at John while spewing racist slurs towards the family.
That day, Shannon recalled, her life changed forever, as her parents had no choice but to explain the man's terrifying actions. As she explained:
"They would be forced to introduce me to the existence of racism, and my innocent view of the world was forever changed."
John and Mickelson's marriage lasted for a decade until they eventually divorced in 1975. A year later, John's creative differences with the writers of "Good Times" resulted in his character, James Evans, being killed and him being fired from the show.
MEET NOEL J. MICKELSON
Mickelson was more than just John Amos' wife. The mother of two was talented in many fields. She was a world-ranked equestrian, an architect, an environmentalist, and an artist with a deep love and respect for nature.
Shannon has described her mother as a "renaissance woman" who was tender, nurturing, and patient. She also instilled in Shannon and K.C the art of expressing themselves through their creativity.
"She didn't let the roles of men or women define her," Shannon told AmoMama of her mom. "She taught me that women can do anything that they set their minds to."
Sadly, Mickelson passed away in December 2016. Her family surrounded her in her last moments, and when Shannon asked if she had any regrets, Mickelson said only that she didn't get to travel and see the world.
Shannon promised to take her mother's ashes and travel around the world to fulfill her last wish. And she did just that starting in January 2017.
SHANNON AND K.C AMOS
John Amos' son and daughter inherited their parents' creative flair and love for the arts. They're both creatives that have tried their hands at producing and directing.
K.C, born Kelly Christopher, is a director, producer, and video editor. He has worked on films such as "The Watermelon Heist," "Tamales and Gumbo," "Hauntsville," and "Mercy for Angels."
Shannon has also worked behind the cameras in the entertainment industry. She was a production assistant at MTV's "Yo! MTV Raps" and worked at Fox's "America's Most Wanted." She has also worked as a writer and producer for BET, ESPN, MTV, and others.
Shannon has her own production company, Afterglow Multimedia, LLC, and is now dedicating her life to luxury travel experiences and helping others heal through wellness and mindfulness.
Both Shannon and K.C have a tight relationship with their dad and consider John one of their biggest inspirations. While they're aware that their dad is an important figure for many black people, for them, he's just "pops."
Actress Lillian Lehman joined the family in 1978 when she married John. Their union didn't bear kids, and they were together only for 19 months. John has been single since then, at least publicly.