|Born||Whitman B. Mayo
November 15, 1930
New York City, New York
|Died||May 22, 2001
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Spouse(s)||Gail Reid (1974–2001)
Patricia Yorck (1966–1974)
Melva Washington (m. 1956)
Mayo was born in New York City, New York, and grew up in Harlem and Queens. At the age of seventeen he moved with his family to Southern California and from there entered the United States Army, serving from 1951 to 1953. Upon release, he studied at Chaffey College, Los Angeles City College, and UCLA. During this time he began acting in small parts, while waiting tables, working in the vineyards and as a probation officer as well as a variety of other small jobs. He also spent seven years as a counselor to delinquent boys.
In the late 1960s, while working for the New Lafayette Theater, Norman Lear offered Mayo a part as Grady Wilson on Sanford and Son. His portrayal of Grady Wilson caught on and he lasted through the entire duration of the show. He opened a travel agency in Inglewood, California. Mayo would later star in the unsuccessful spin-off, Grady, in which his character moved in with his daughter and her husband in Beverly Hills. After the cancellation of Grady after only ten episodes in 1976, Mayo and the Grady character returned to Sanford and Son, where they remained for the duration of the series' run until its cancellation by NBC in 1977. Mayo also reprised the role in the unsuccessful 1977 NBC-TV spinoff series Sanford Arms opposite actor Theodore Wilson, as well as for two episodes of Sanford, another NBC-TV Sanford and Son spinoff, this time opposite Redd Foxx and actor Dennis Burkley, in 1981.
Mayo's character name, Grady Wilson, was the real name of the actor who played Lamont Sanford (Grady Demond Wilson).
In 1991 he appeared in an episode of Full House called "The Volunteer". He played a senior named Eddie Johnson.
In 1996, Late Night with Conan O'Brien spent several weeks trying to "find Grady," and have Mayo appear on the show. The show aired a mock episode of Unsolved Mysteries. On February 8, 1996, Mayo finally appeared on Late Night, to much fanfare.
Mayo also played a role in The Cape as Sweets, the owner of Moonshot Bar and Grill.
Although best known for his television work, Mayo made several film appearances, including The Main Event with Barbra Streisand, D.C. Cab, Boyz n the Hood and Waterproof with Burt Reynolds. Mayo also appeared as Reverend Banyon on the BET TV Movie Boycott in 2001 and in an episode of Martin. He also taught drama at Clark Atlanta University and hosted Liars and Legends on Turner South.
Mayo died of a heart attack, at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital. He had resided in Atlanta's Historic Collier Heights community, since 1994 and was survived by his children and by his third wife, Gail Mayo.
His son, Rahn Mayo, is currently a member of the Georgia House of Representatives representing House District 91. He is also survived by his daughters Tanya Mayo, Suni Mayo Simpson, and daughter Pangi Raysor and son Jon-Jo Raysor of Brooklyn, New York.
- CONAN O'BRIEN, 2/7/96 - CONAN'S SEARCH FOR WHITMAN MAYO ("GRADY") - 1/5
- CONAN O'BRIEN, 2/8/96 - "GRADY HAS LANDED" IN NEW YORK - 2/5
- CONAN O'BRIEN, 2/8/96 - GRADY'S ARRIVAL - 4/5
- Henderson, Ashyia (2002). "Whitman Mayo". Contemporary Black Biography. vol. 32. Farmington Hills: Gale Group. ISBN 0-7876-5913-4.
- Staff writers (22 May 2001). "Whitman Mayo, 'Sanford & Son's' Grady, dies at 70". CNN. Retrieved 2008-01-21.