On this day in comedy on December 27, 1939 Actor, John A. Amos, Jr. was born in Newark, New Jersey.
Described by Kansas City Chief’s football coach, Hank Stram as “”you’re not a football player, you’re a man who is trying to play football” when Amos tried out for the team (he was signed or played on 9 teams in various leagues), he moved on from his athletic pursuits into acting. In 1970 he gained national notoriety as Gordy Howard, the weatherman on the iconic sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That gig lasted until 1973. He then landed the role he is most remembered for – James Evans, Sr. on Norman Lear’s Good Times. Evans was a no-nonsense father cut from the old school cloth of hard working men from that era. Unfortunately after becoming a hit is was evident to Amos that the show’s executives were more interested in the buffoonery of his eldest TV son, JJ (Jimmie Walker) than trying to present positive images and mine the aspirations of the other two children (Bern Nadette Stanis and Ralph Carter) for comedy. He admittedly became a disruption and Lear fired him after season three.
Amos was not unemployed long. During his Good Times tenure he’d shot the Sidney Poitier directed hit Let’s Do it Again in 1975. One of his co-stars was Jimmie Walker. Amos went on to guest star or be a recurring character in TV shows like, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Cosby Show, In the House, Martin, Men in Trees, All About the Andersons, Two and a Half Men and My Name is Earl. His film roles include The World’s Greatest Athlete, Roots, Coming to America, The Players Club, Die Hard 2, My Baby’s Daddy, Dr. Dolittle 3 and Madea’s Witness Protection.
The versatile Amos wrote, produced and starred in his critically praised one-man play, Halley’s Comet. He’s appeared in music videos, released his own album of original country tunes in 2009 and was a national spokesman for The Cochran Firm (like in Johnny Cochran). John Amos is a multiple NAACP and Emmy nominee and holds the record of more wins than any other artist from the TV Land Awards.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
Here’s an Amos clip from Good Times: