Publicity photo of Isabel Sanford with
The Jeffersons co-stars, Sherman Hemsley and Mike Evans, circa 1974
|Born||Eloise Gwendolyn Sanford
August 29, 1917
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||July 9, 2004
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills|
|Known for||Portraying Louise "Weezy" Jefferson on All in the Family and The Jeffersons|
|Spouse(s)||William Edward "Sonny" Richmond (m.?–1961)|
|Awards||Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (The Jeffersons, 1981)|
Isabel Sanford (August 29, 1917 – July 9, 2004) was an American stage, film and television actress best known for her role as Louise "Weezy" Jefferson on the CBS sitcoms All in the Family (1971–1975) and The Jeffersons (1975–1985). In 1981, she became the first African American actress to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Early life 
Sanford was born Eloise Gwendolyn Sanford in Harlem, New York, to James Edward and Josephine Sanford (née Perry). She was the youngest of seven children, but was the only one to survive beyond infancy. Josephine Sanford was devoutly religious and insisted that her daughter attend church every Sunday and occasionally made her attend on weeknights. As a teen, Sanford aspired to be an actress but her mother discouraged her dream as she felt that show business was "the road to degradation". Sanford disobeyed her mother and began performing at local clubs behind her mother's back. She also performed at amateur night at the Apollo Theater. After graduating from high school, Sanford joined Harlem's American Negro Theater and the Star Players. She made her professional stage debut in 1946 in On Strivers Row and appeared in several off-Broadway productions while also working as a keypunch operator at IBM.
After separating from her husband, Sanford and her three children relocated to California in 1960 where Sanford continued acting in stage productions, television and film. Soon after her arrival, she was asked to join the national production of Here Today by actress Tallulah Bankhead. In 1965, she made her Broadway debut in James Baldwin's The Amen Corner. The role lead to her being cast in the 1967 film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. In the film, Sanford portrayed the role of the maid Tillie Binks which earned her good reviews. She caught the attention of major Hollywood players, including Norman Lear, who cast Sanford in the role of Louise Jefferson in All in the Family. Sanford and her TV husband, Sherman Hemsley, were so popular that Norman Lear decided to spin the characters off into their own weekly series. The Jeffersons. Sanford was initially reluctant to commit to working on a weekly series as she was already working steadily, but decided to accept the offer.
The Jeffersons premiered in January 1975 and was an immediate hit with audiences and ultimately ran for eleven reasons. For her role on the series, Sanford earned five Golden Globe Award nominations, and seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations. She won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1981, making her the first African American actress to win in that category.
After The Jeffersons was canceled in 1985, Sanford continued her career with guest starring roles in television and film. In January 1987, she starred in her own sitcom Isabel's Honeymoon Hotel, which aired five days a week in syndication. The series was created to showcase Sanford's comedic skills, but it failed to attract an audience and was quickly cancelled.
In the 1990s, Sanford mainly appeared in television guest appearances and cameo appearances in movies. She appeared on Dream On, Living Single, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, In the House and The Steve Harvey Show, and Hearts Are Wild. In 1996, had a supporting role in the action movie Original Gangstas, starring Blaxploitation film stars Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Jim Brown, and Richard Roundtree.
Sanford later reprised her role as Louise Jefferson in a touring company of The Real Live Jeffersons stage show in the mid-1990s alongside Sherman Helmsely. She and Hemsley also made cameo appearances in films such as Sprung, Mafia! and two episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The two also appeared in a series of advertisements for Denny's and Old Navy.
In January 2004, Sanford received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to the television industry. She made her final television appearance the following month as an animated version of herself on The Simpsons episode "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore".
Personal life 
Sanford was married to house painter William Edward "Sonny" Richmond. The couple had three children: Pamela, Wahli and Sanford before separating. Although separated, Sanford and Richmond remained married until Richmond's death in 1961.
In September 2003, Sanford underwent surgery on an artery in her neck. In the ensuing months, her health steadily declined. She was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on July 4, 2004 where she died five days later. Her publicist did not announce a cause of death, instead attributing it to unspecified "natural causes". She was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.
Broadway credits 
|April 15 – June 26, 1965||The Amen Corner||Sister Moore|
|1967||Guess Who's Coming to Dinner||Tillie|
|1968||The Young Runaways||Sarah|
|1970||The Red, White, and Black||Isabel Taylor|
|1972||The New Centurions||Wilma|
|1972||Hickey & Boggs||Nyona's Mother|
|1972||Lady Sings the Blues||The Madame|
|1972||Up the Sandbox||Maria|
|1974||The Photographer||Mrs. Slade|
|1979||Love At First Bite||Judge R. Thomas|
|1981||Desperate Moves||Dottie Butz|
|1990||Pucker Up and Bark Like a Dog||Joanna|
|1996||Original Gangstas||Gracie Bookman|
|1998||Jane Austen's Mafia!||Mrs. Louise Jefferson||Uncredited|
|2000||Click Three Times||Dorothy|
|1968||The Carol Burnett Show||Sketch Performer||Episode #2.1|
|1968||Bewitched||Aunt Jenny||Episode: "Samantha Goes South for a Spell"|
|1968||The Mod Squad||Lillian||Episode: "Love"|
|1970||Daniel Boone||Maybelle||Episode: "Sunshine Patriots"|
|1971||The Bill Cosby Show||Bertha||Episode: "The Barber Shop"
Credited as Isabell Sanford
|1971||The Interns||Dr. Hearn||Episode: "The Choice"|
|1971–1972||Love, American Style||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1971–1979||All in the Family||Louise Jefferson||26 episodes|
|1972||The Mary Tyler Moore Show||Mrs. Wilson||Episode: "His Two Right Arms"|
|1972||The Great Man's Whiskers||Ella||Television film|
|1972||Wait Till Your Father Gets Home||Betsy (voice)||Episode: "Help Wanted"|
|1973||Temperatures Rising||Mrs. Noland||Episode: "The Mothers"|
|1974||Kojak||Grace||Episode: "Die Before They Wake"|
|1978||Vega$||Mae||Episode: "Milliken's Stash"|
|1975–1985||The Jeffersons||Louise Jefferson||253 episodes|
|1980–1983||The Love Boat||Tanya, Isaac's Aunt||2 episodes|
|1986||Crazy Like a Fox||1 episode|
|1986||The New Mike Hammer||Mama Vibes||Episode: "The Duke Is Dead"|
|1987||Isabel's Honeymoon Hotel||Isabel Scott||Unknown episodes|
|1988||A Pup Named Scooby-Doo||Additional voices||Episode "A Bicycle Built for Boo!"|
|1993||Dream On||Judge Isabel Kohner||Episode: "Oral Sex, Lies and Videotape"|
|1993||Living Single||Eunetta Ryan||Episode: "Quittin' Time"|
|1994||Hangin' with Mr. Cooper||Judge||Episode: "The Courtship of Mark Cooper"|
|1994||Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman||Ms. Duffy||Episode: "The Courtship of Mark Cooper"|
|1995||Roseanne||Louise Jefferson, TV Mom #3||Episode: "All About Rosey"|
|1995||In the House||Nanna||2 episodes|
|1995–1996||The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Louise "Weezy" Jefferson||2 episodes|
|1996||The Steve Harvey Show||Mother Hightower||Episode: "That's My Mama"|
|1997||Teen Angel||Laurie||Episode: "Sings Like an Angel"|
|1998||Pepper Ann||Bernice (voice)||Episode: "Cocoon Gables/Green-Eyed Monster"|
|1999||Jackie's Back||Miss Krumes||Television film|
|2001||The Parkers||Evelyn "Nana" Smith||Episode: "Hands Off, Grandman"|
|2002||The Young and the Restless||Sylvia||Episode #1.7534|
|2004||The Simpsons||Herself (voice)||Episode: "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore"|
|2004||Candid Camera||Mrs. Jefferson||Episode: "Mother's Day"|
Awards and nominations 
|Year||Award||Category||Title of work||Result|
|1979||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1980||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1981||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series||The Jeffersons||Won|
|1982||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1983||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1984||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1985||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1977||Golden Globe Award||Best TV Actress - Musical/Comedy||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1978||Golden Globe Award||Best TV Actress - Musical/Comedy||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1983||Golden Globe Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1984||Golden Globe Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1985||Golden Globe Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|2004||TV Land Awards||Favorite Cantankerous Couple||The Jeffersons (Shared with Sherman Hemsley)||Won|
- Robinson, Louie (January 1976). "The Jeffersons". Ebony (Johnson Publishing Company) 31 (3): 114. ISSN 0012-9011.
- Shattuck, Kathryn (July 13, 2004). "Isabel Sanford, 86, Actress Who Portrayed Mrs. Jefferson". nytimes.com. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- McLellan, Dennis (July 13, 2004). "Isabel Sanford, 86; Won Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy". latimes.com. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- "Isabel Sanford Biography". biography.com. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Slater, Jack (September 1980). "The Real People Behind The Jeffersons". Ebony (Johnson Publishing Company) 35 (11): 87–88. ISSN 0012-9011.
- "Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series". Bangor Daily News. July 13, 2004. p. B6. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- "Isabel Sanford to star in new syndicated sitcom". Washington Afro-American. September 6, 1986. p. 8. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- "SANFORD'S 'HONEYMOON HOTEL' DOES SLOW BUSINESS". Daily News of Los Angeles. January 14, 1987.
- Du Vernay, Denise (2010). The Simpsons in the Classroom. McFarland. p. 61. ISBN 0-786-45692-2.
- "Isabel Sanford dies in Los Angeles hospital". today.com. July 12, 2004. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- "Actress Isabel Sanford dead at 86". The Madison Courier. July 13, 2004. pp. B–4. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Kemp, Joe; Goldsmith, Samuel (July 7, 2009). "Michael Jackson will be buried among Tinseltown's legends at Forest Lawn". nydailynews.com. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- "Hollywood Star Walk". latimes.com. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Official website
- Isabel Sanford at the Internet Broadway Database
- Isabel Sanford at the Internet Movie Database
- Isabel Sanford at Find a Grave