John Amos

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John Amos
Amos at "Their Voices, Their Stories - Black Veterans Who Served on Iwo Jima", March 2011.
John Allen Amos Jr.

(1939-12-27) December 27, 1939 (age 84)
Alma materColorado State University (BA)
Years active1970–present
Known forKunta Kinte (adult) – Roots
James Evans Sr. – Good Times
Political partyDemocratic
  • Noel J. Mickelson
    (m. 1965; div. 1975)
  • (m. 1978; div. 1979)

John Allen Amos Jr.[1] (born December 27, 1939) is an American actor. He is best known for his role as the adult Kunta Kinte in the landmark miniseries Roots and for portraying James Evans Sr. on the CBS television series Good Times.[2] Amos' other television work includes The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a recurring role as Admiral Percy Fitzwallace on The West Wing, and the role of Washington, DC Mayor Ethan Baker in the series The District. Amos has appeared on Broadway and in numerous films in his five-decade career.

He has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and an NAACP Image Award. On film, he has played numerous supporting roles in movies such as The Beastmaster (1982), Coming to America (1988), Lock Up (1989), Die Hard 2 (1990) and Coming 2 America (2021). Prior to his acting career, Amos played college football at Colorado State University. He also had a brief professional football career which included spending a portion of the 1967 offseason for the American Football League's Kansas City Chiefs.

Early life[edit]

Amos was born on December 27, 1939, in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Annabelle and John A. Amos Sr., an auto mechanic.[3] He grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, and graduated from East Orange High School in 1958.[4] He enrolled at Long Beach City College and graduated from Colorado State University, qualifying as a social worker with a degree in sociology.[5] Amos played on the school's football team.[6] After college, he was a Golden Gloves boxing champion.[5]

Football career[edit]

In 1964, Amos signed a free agent contract with the American Football League's Denver Broncos. Unable to run the 40-yard dash because of a pulled hamstring, he was released on the second day of training camp.[7] He then played with the Canton Bulldogs and Joliet Explorers of the United Football League. In 1965, he played with the Norfolk Neptunes and Wheeling Ironmen of the Continental Football League. In 1966, he played with the Jersey City Jets and Waterbury Orbits of the Atlantic Coast Football League.

In 1967, Amos signed a free agent contract with the American Football League's Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Hank Stram told him, "You're not a football player, you're a man who is trying to play football."[8] He returned to the Continental League, where he played that year with the Victoria Steelers.

Acting career[edit]

On Good Times (1974), L–R: Ralph Carter, BernNadette Stanis, Jimmie Walker, Esther Rolle, and John Amos

Amos became well known in his first major TV role, playing Gordy Howard, the weatherman on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, from 1970 until 1973. Upon the death of Betty White, Amos and Joyce Bulifant (who played Marie Slaughter) became the last surviving semi-regular cast members of that show (not counting child actors). In 1971, he appeared with Anson Williams in a commercial for McDonald's, and performed in a small role as a radio engineer in the cult film, Vanishing Point, with Cleavon Little. But he is best known for his portrayal of James Evans Sr., the husband of Florida Evans, first appearing three times on the sitcom Maude before continuing the role in 61 episodes of Good Times from 1974 to 1976.

Good Times (1974–1976)[edit]

Although cast as a hard-working middle-aged father of three, Amos was 34 when the show began production in 1973, only eight years older than the actor who played his oldest son (Jimmie Walker) and 19 years younger than his screen wife (Esther Rolle). Much like Rolle, Amos wanted to portray a positive image of an African-American family, struggling against the odds in a poor neighborhood, but saw the premise slighted by lower comedy, and he expressed dissatisfaction.

During his tenure on Good Times, Amos openly clashed with the writers of the show, due to the scripts' lack of authenticity in portraying the African-American experience. This led to his dismissal by executive producer Norman Lear at the end of season 3 in 1976. In a 2017 interview, Amos said he had told the writers, who, according to Amos, did not understand African-Americans, "That just doesn't happen in the community. We don't think that way. We don't act that way. We don't let our children do that."[9]

In 1980, he starred in the TV film Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story. Amos played an Archie Bunker-style character in the 1994 sitcom 704 Hauser, a modern spin-off of All in the Family, but it was canceled after only five episodes (in the series he played a different character than he did in the All in the Family spin-off Maude). He also portrayed Captain Dolan on the TV show Hunter from 1984 to 1985. He co-starred in the CBS police drama The District. Amos was a frequent guest on The West Wing, portraying Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, who serves as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for most of the show. He played Buzz Washington in the ABC series Men in Trees. Amos co-starred with Anthony Anderson in the short-lived TV series All About the Andersons in 2003.

In 2010, Amos also appeared as recurring character Ed on Two and a Half Men, and in 2016 as another recurring character, also (coincidentally) named Ed, on the Netflix sitcom The Ranch. He has guest-starred in a number of other television shows, including Police Story, The A-Team, The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, In the House, Martin as Sgt. Hamilton Strawn (Tommy's father), Touched by an Angel, Psych, Sanford and Son, My Name Is Earl, Lie to Me, and Murder, She Wrote. He has also appeared as a spokesman for the Cochran Firm (a national personal injury law firm).[10]

Amos wrote and produced Halley's Comet, a critically acclaimed[11] one-man play that he has performed around the world. Amos performed in August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean on Broadway and later at the McCarther Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey.

Film, music[edit]

John Amos in 2000

In 1977, Amos starred in the ABC-TV Miniseries Roots, as the adult Kunta Kinte, based on the book by author Alex Haley. Amos was featured in Disney's The World's Greatest Athlete (1973) with Tim Conway and Jan-Michael Vincent, and also starred as Kansas City Mack in Let's Do It Again (1975) with Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier. His other film appearances include Vanishing Point (1971), The President's Plane Is Missing (1973), Touched by Love (1980), The Beastmaster (1982), Dance of the Dwarfs (1983), American Flyers (1985), Coming to America (1988), Lock Up (1989), Two Evil Eyes (1989), Die Hard 2 (1990), and Ricochet (1991).

He appeared in the 1995 film For Better or Worse and played a police officer in The Players Club (1998). He played Uncle Virgil in My Baby's Daddy (2004), and starred as Jud in Dr. Dolittle 3 (2006). In 2012, Amos had a role in the movie Madea's Witness Protection, as Jake's father. He appeared in Ice Cube and Dr. Dre's 1994 video for "Natural Born Killaz."

In 2009, he released We Were Hippies, an album of original country songs by Gene and Eric Cash.[12]

In 2021, Amos starred in Because of Charley, as the patriarch of an estranged step-family riding out the hurricane that tore through Florida in 2004.[13]


In addition to his Emmy nomination for Roots, Amos has been nominated for a CableACE award, an NAACP Image Award, and a DVD Exclusive Award. Amos has won three TV Land Awards, taking home trophies for his roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Good Times and the TV miniseries Roots.[14]

In 2020, Amos was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

Personal life[edit]

Amos is a veteran of the 50th Armored Division of the New Jersey National Guard and Honorary Master Chief of the United States Coast Guard.[15][16]

Amos has been married twice. His first marriage, from 1965 to 1975, was to artist and equestrian Noel Mickelson, with whom he has two children: Shannon Amos, a writer/producer and founder of Afterglow Multimedia, LLC, and Grammy-nominated director K.C. Amos. The acrimonious relationship between Shannon and K.C. over the care given to their parents has been documented by The Hollywood Reporter.[17]

His second marriage, from 1978 to 1979, was to actress Lillian Lehman.

Amos lived for many years in Tewksbury Township, New Jersey.[18] In 2018 he moved to Colorado.[17] In 2023 he resided in Westcliffe, Colorado, where the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was looking into accusations of elder abuse.[19]



Year Title Role Notes
1971 Vanishing Point Super Soul's Engineer Uncredited
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song Biker Credited as Johnny Amos
1973 The World's Greatest Athlete Coach Sam Archer
1975 Let's Do It Again Mack "Kansas City Mack"
1980 Touched by Love Tony
1982 The Beastmaster Seth
1983 Dance of the Dwarfs Esteban
1985 American Flyers Dr. Conrad
1988 Coming to America Cleo McDowell
1989 Lock Up Captain Meissner
1990 Two Evil Eyes Detective Legrand Segment: "The Black Cat"
Die Hard 2 Major Grant
1991 Ricochet Reverend Styles
Without a Pass Blue Berry
1993 Mac Nat
Night Trap Captain Hodges
1995 For Better or Worse Gray
1998 The Players Club Officer Freeman
2001 All Over Again Coach Zeller
2003 The Watermelon Heist Old Man Amos
2004 My Baby's Daddy Uncle Virgil
Countdown Admiral Melory
2005 Shadowboxing Hill
2006 Dr. Dolittle 3 Jud Jones
2007 Ascension Day Henry
2010 Lean Like a Cholo "Slick"
2011 Stills of the Movement: The Civil Rights Photojournalism of Flip Schulke The Narrator
2012 Zombie Hamlet Edgar Mortimer
Madea's Witness Protection Pastor Nelson
2014 Act of Faith Brady
2015 Bad Asses on the Bayou Earl
Mercy for Angels God
Tamales and Gumbo The Patron
2016 Hauntsville Mr. Kimball
2019 Uncut Gems Himself
2021 Coming 2 America Cleo McDowell
Because of Charley Grandpa
2021 Christmas in Miami Chief Host
2022 Me Time Gil
2023 The Last Rifleman Lincoln Adams


Year Title Role Notes
1970 The Bill Cosby Show 1st Salesman as Johnny Amos
Episode: "Swann's Way"
1970–1977 The Mary Tyler Moore Show Weatherman Gordon "Gordy" Howard 13 episodes
1971 The Funny Side Minority Husband 6 episodes
1971–1972 Love, American Style Bell Captain 2 episodes
1972 The New Dick Van Dyke Show Mark Cooper Episode: "The Harry Award"
1973 Sanford and Son Luther Episode: "A Visit from Lena Horne"
1973–1974 Maude Henry Evans Recurring role, 3 episodes
1974 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Himself 1 episode
1974–1976 Good Times James Evans Sr. 61 episodes
1976 Police Story Sergeant Walt Kyles 1 episode
1976–1977 Future Cop Officer Bill Bundy 7 episodes
1977 Roots Older Kunta Kinte 3 episodes
1979 Mr. Dugan Representative Dooley Unaired pilot
1980 Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson TV miniseries
1981 Here's Boomer Charlie Foster Episode: "Boomer Goes for the Gold"
1982 Insight Josh Cameron Episode: "Hang Tight, Willy Bill"
1983 The Love Boat Duke Taylor Episode: "The Zinging Valentine/The Very Temporary Secretary/Final Score"
1984 The A-Team Reverend Taylor Episode: "Pure-Dee Poison"
Trapper John, M.D. Inspector Roland Hackett Episode: "The Fred Connection"
Hardcastle and McCormick Albie Meadows Episode: "The Homecoming: Part 2"
1984–1985 Hunter Captain Dolan 13 episodes
1986 One Life to Live Bill Moore 2 episodes
1987 Murder, She Wrote "Doc" Penrose Episode: "Death Takes a Dive"
Stingray Roy Jeffries Episode: "Blood Money"
You Are the Jury Sergeant Harold Borman Episode: "The State of Oregon vs. Stanley Manning"
1988 Beauty and the Beast Farrell Episode: "The Alchemist"
Bonanza: The Next Generation Mr. Mack TV movie
The Cosby Show Dr. Herbert Episode: "The Physical"
1989 Gideon Oliver Carl Manning Episode: "Tongs"
1994 704 Hauser Ernie Cumberbatch 6 episodes
1994–1995 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Fred Wilkes 3 episodes
1995–1997 In the House Coach Sam Wilson 12 episodes
1995 Touched by an Angel Sheriff James Mackey Episode: "The Hero"
1997 Martin Sergeant Strawn Episode: "Daddy Dearest"
Walker, Texas Ranger Pastor Roscoe Jones Episode: "Sons of Thunder"
1998 King of the Hill Glenn Johnson Voice
Episode: "Traffic Jam"
1999–2004 The West Wing Admiral Percy Fitzwallace 22 episodes
2000 Something to Sing About Reverend Washington TV movie
The Outer Limits Peter "Yas" Yastrzemski Episode: "Zig Zag"
Disappearing Acts Mr. Swift TV movie
2000–2001 The District Mayor Ethan Baker 10 episodes
2002 American Masters Dr. Bledsoe Episode: "Ralph Ellison: An American Journey"
2003–2004 All About the Andersons Joe Anderson 16 episodes
2006 Voodoo Moon "Dutch" TV movie
2006–2008 Men in Trees "Buzz" Washington 27 episodes
2007 Psych Uncle Burton Guster Episode: "Meat Is Murder, But Murder Is Also Murder"
2008 My Name Is Earl Joe Episode: "Stole an RV"
2010 Two and a Half Men Ed 3 episodes
Royal Pains Harrison Phillips Episode: "Big Whoop"
30 Rock Himself Episode: "Let's Stay Together"
Lie to Me Jim Weaver Episode: "Smoked"
2012 NYC 22 Pappy Science Episode: "Ransom"
2016–2017 The Ranch Ed Bishop 4 episodes
2019 Ballers Deacon Eller 2 episodes
Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell War Episode: "The Poor Horsemen of the Apocalypse"
Live in Front of a Studio Audience Fred Davis Episode: "'All in the Family' and 'Good Times'"
2020 The Last O.G. Uncle D Episode: "Family Feud"
2022 The Righteous Gemstones Buddy Lissons Episode: "I Will Tell of All Your Deeds"


  1. ^ "Past Commencement Speakers & Honorary Degree Recipients". Drew University. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  2. ^ "John Amos Reflects on 50 Years in Hollywood". Time. Retrieved September 15, 2021.
  3. ^ "John Amos Biography (1939?-)". Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  4. ^ Patrick Lombardi. "Black History NJ: John Amos - Best of NJ: NJ Lifestyle Guides, Features, Events, and More". Best of NJ. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "John Amos Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved December 8, 2010.
  6. ^ "John Amos: Biography". TV Guide. Retrieved December 8, 2010.
  7. ^ "Chiefs Kingdom: John Amos". Kansas City Chiefs. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  8. ^ "Rovell: The Football Story of "Coming 2 America" Star John Amos". Action Network. March 3, 2021. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  9. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (February 6, 2020). "Why don't networks rebroadcast shows like 'Dynasty' and 'L.A. Law'?". Norwalk Reflector. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  10. ^ "John Amos Cochran Firm 1". Creative Network Studios. June 6, 2014 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ Becker, Ellen (February 14, 2013). "John Amos performs 'Halley's Comet'". Archived from the original on January 16, 2017. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  12. ^ "John Amos to debut country single". June 14, 2009. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  13. ^ "Because of Charley".
  14. ^ "John Amos - Awards".
  15. ^ "Local news". Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  16. ^ "John Amos biodata". American Entertainment International Speakers Bureau, Inc. September 11, 2009. Archived from the original on August 26, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
  17. ^ a b Baum, Gary (November 10, 2023). "John Amos and a Family at War With Itself". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 24, 2023.
  18. ^ Atmonavage, Joe (April 13, 2018). "Not so good times: John Amos' N.J. home is on verge of foreclosure". nj. Retrieved May 9, 2022.
  19. ^ Cocova, Marcus (June 9, 2023). "Actor John Amos of Westcliffe hospitalized, allegations of elder abuse says CBI". KOAA News 5. Retrieved November 24, 2023.

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