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Also Known As: Johnny Amos Died:
Born: December 27, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Newark, New Jersey, USA Profession: actor, producer, director, theater artistic director, comedian, comedy writer, professional football player, copywriter, social worker

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An imposing veteran actor of stage and screen, John Amos earned his greatest claim to fame as the hardworking but prideful James Evans, Sr. on the hit Norman Lear sitcom "Good Times" (CBS, 1974-79). Though only on the series for its first three seasons - the actor clashed repeatedly with producers and eventually departed - Amos earned a spot in the cultural zeitgeist with what was hailed as one of the most realistic portrayals of an African-American father at the time. In fact, his characterization set the template for other black actors to follow, most notably Bill Cosby in the next decade. Meanwhile, Amos went on to shine in a variety of projects that included the landmark miniseries "Roots" (ABC, 1977), a recurring role as a police captain on the first season of the drama "Hunter" (NBC, 1984-1991), and another recurring role as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006). Of course, he had a number of memorable big screen performances, playing a social climbing restaurateur in "Coming to America" (1988) and a rare villain in "Die Hard 2" (1990). Whether playing military commanders, curmudgeonly father figures or even the occasional terrorist, Amos always brought...

An imposing veteran actor of stage and screen, John Amos earned his greatest claim to fame as the hardworking but prideful James Evans, Sr. on the hit Norman Lear sitcom "Good Times" (CBS, 1974-79). Though only on the series for its first three seasons - the actor clashed repeatedly with producers and eventually departed - Amos earned a spot in the cultural zeitgeist with what was hailed as one of the most realistic portrayals of an African-American father at the time. In fact, his characterization set the template for other black actors to follow, most notably Bill Cosby in the next decade. Meanwhile, Amos went on to shine in a variety of projects that included the landmark miniseries "Roots" (ABC, 1977), a recurring role as a police captain on the first season of the drama "Hunter" (NBC, 1984-1991), and another recurring role as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006). Of course, he had a number of memorable big screen performances, playing a social climbing restaurateur in "Coming to America" (1988) and a rare villain in "Die Hard 2" (1990). Whether playing military commanders, curmudgeonly father figures or even the occasional terrorist, Amos always brought authority and gravitas to every project in which he appeared.

Born John A. Amos, Jr. on Dec. 27, 1939 in Newark, NJ, Amos' pre-acting life was an athletic one; according to varying sources, he was a Golden Gloves boxing champion, and after graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in sociology, he played semi-professional football in the United States and Canada. He also worked as a social worker in New York and in advertising prior to trying his hand at stand-up comedy in Greenwich Village. A job as a staff writer on Leslie Uggams' variety series (CBS, 1969) brought him to Los Angeles, where he made also his stage debut in a 1971 production of the comedy "Norman, Is That You?" which earned a Drama Critics nomination. Later, he formed his own theater company and took "Norman" on the road.

Amos began popping up in small roles on television and in films in 1970. Among his earliest credits were in Melvin Van Peebles' legendary independent film "Sweet Sweetback's Badassss Song" (1970) and in the cult road movie "Vanishing Point" (1971). He made his television debut in 1970 as Gordy Howard, the amiable weatherman, on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77), before landing a recurring role on Norman Lear's controversial sitcom "Maude" (CBS, 1972-78), starring as Henry Evans, husband to Maude's cleaning lady, Florida Evans (Esther Rolle). The characters were given their own Lear sitcom, "Good Times," in 1974, where Evans was renamed James. The first sitcom to focus solely on an African-American family, "Good Times" was praised in its early seasons for its honest approach to the financial and social challenges facing low-income families in the 1970s. It would go on to be nominated for a Humanitas Award in 1975, and viewers responded by ushering the show to No. 17 in the ratings. Amos, in particular, received considerable praise for his accurate and honest portrayal of Evans, a stern but proud father who struggled mightily with his inability to land regular work.

But by 1976, the show's focus had shifted to its breakout star, comedian Jimmie Walker, with whom Amos had co-starred in the Sidney Poitier/Bill Cosby comedy "Let's Do It Again" (1975). His J.J. had become something of a pop culture icon, thanks to his broad performance and "Dy-No-MITE!" catch phrase. Amos was vocal about his dismay in this sea change, and frequently clashed with the producers and script writers over what he perceived as stereotypical characterizations. By 1976, he had tired of the struggle to inject dignity into the program, and left the show. His departure was explained away as a search for regular work in Alaska and the character's fate was sealed in the opening episodes of the 1976-77 season when Florida received word that he had been killed in a car accident.

Though some viewed Amos' exit as a hasty one, the actor had landed a substantial role in what would be one of the most influential television miniseries of all time: as the adult Kunta Kinte in "Roots" (1977). Amos' natural gravitas resonated in the difficult role, and he received an Emmy nomination in 1977 for his efforts. Unfortunately, he was unable to parlay this success into substantial roles. By 1977, he was back on television in "Future Cop" (ABC, 1977), a sitcom about a police officer who partners with a robot. He worked steadily through the 1980s and early 1990s, mostly in guest shots for episodic series like "The A-Team" (NBC, 1983-87). There were also a few notable movie roles; a doctor in "American Flyers" (1985) with Kevin Costner and a nice comic turn in "Coming to America" (1989), but his most rewarding work during this period came on stage. He earned an NAACP Award for the 1985 play "Split Second" and trod the boards in New York and London in productions of Shakespeare and August Wilson's "Fences, among other shows. In 1990, he launched a one-man show, "Halley's Comet," in which he played an 87-year-old man who recounted his life's experiences. The show toured regularly for the next two decades.

Amos' profile raised in the early 1990s with notable supporting turns in major features like "Lock Up" (1989) and "Die Hard 2" (1990). He also returned to television as a series regular on "704 Hauser" (CBS, 1994), a Norman Lear sitcom which put a black family in the famous residence once occupied by Archie Bunker. Despite its spirited revival of the social and class conflict honed to perfection by "All in the Family" (CBS, 1971-79) - the show pitted Democrat Amos against his conservative son - the series was not a success. But Amos soon found consistent work in recurring roles for other series, including "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" (NBC, 1990-96) and "In the House" (NBC, 1995-99), which netted him an Image Award nomination in 1996. In 1999, he played Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on "The West Wing" until 2004, when his character was killed by a roadside bomb on the West Bank of Gaza in Israel.

In 2000, Amos had a recurring role as the Mayor on the Craig T. Nelson drama, "The District" (CBS, 2000-04). He also logged time as a series regular on the short-lived "All About the Andersons" (The WB, 2003-04) as the stern father of comic Anthony Anderson, who has returned to live with his parents while raising his own son. Amos continued to pop up in independent features during this period; most notably 2003's "The Watermelon Heist," an independent feature directed by his son, K.C. Amos, and produced by his daughter, Shannon. In 2006, Amos joined the cast of "Men in Trees," a quirky romantic comedy which cast him as an Alaska bush pilot with a secret. He also turned up on the USA Network comedy "Psych" (2006- ) as the uncle of Dule Hill. Meanwhile, his previous work reaped awards from TV Land, which honored him for his participation in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Roots" and "Good Times" in 2006 and 2007. Meanwhile, Amos logged episodes of "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 2005-09) and "Royal Pains" (USA Network, 2009- ), while also recurring on "Two and a Half Men" (CBS, 2003- ) during season seven as Chelsea's father. After appearing as himself in a 2010 episode of "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006- ), Amos was a guest star on "Lie to Me" (Fox, 2009-2011) before returning to film with a small supporting role in "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection" (2012).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Dr. Dolittle 3 (2006)
3.
 Lichnyy Nomer (2006)
4.
 Countdown (2004)
5.
 My Baby's Daddy (2004) Uncle Virgil
6.
 Ralph Ellison: An American Journey (2002) Doctor Bledsoe
7.
 Disappearing Acts (2000) Mr Swift
8.
 Against Time (2000)
9.
 Player's Club (1998) Freeman
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Played professional football in American, Canadian and Continental Leagues
:
Worked as social worker at the Vera Institute of Justice, NYC
:
Worked as advertising copywriter
:
Began performing stand-up comedy in Greenwich Village
1969:
Was a staff writer on the CBS variety series "The Leslie Uggams Show"
1970:
Played recurring role of Gordy the weatherman on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS)
:
Broadway debut, "Tough to Get Help"
1971:
Early feature credit, "Sweet Sweetback's Badassss Song", credited as Johnny Amos
1971:
Was a regular on the summer sitcom "The Funny Side" (NBC)
:
Had recurring role of Henry Evans, the husband of maid Florida (Esther Rolle) on the CBS sitcom "Maude"
:
Reprised role of Florida Evans' husband, now named James in the CBS spin-off "Good Times"
1976:
Left "Good Times" in dispute over direction of show; character killed off
1977:
Won acclaim as the adult Kunta Kinte in the landmark ABC miniseries, "Roots"
:
Played Captain Dolan on season of "Hunter"
:
For one season, played Captain Dolan on the NBC police drama "Hunter"
:
Directed, produced and scripted the film "Grambling Takes It All Back Home"
1990:
Performed in his own one-person show, "Hailey's Comet"
1990:
Co-starred in feature films "Die Hard 2: Die Harder"
1994:
Returned to series TV in the short-lived sitcom "704 Hauser Street" (CBS)
:
Had regular role on "In the House" (NBC)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Colorado State University: Colorado Springs , Colorado -
Long Beach City College: Long Beach , California -

Notes

Artistic director to the Keane-Brown Center Stage, New Jersey

Member of the Young Men's Christian Association

"I played football for a long time, and I boxed, and I felt when I first came into the business that physical confrontation was the best way to resolve any issue. And I wasn't the world's greatest diplomat. So, when things got tight, not having the maturity I'd like to think I've acquired, I was ready to, in the street vernacular, 'throw down,' you know?" --John Amos in NEWSDAY, April 10, 1994

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lily Amos. Divorced; mother of his two children.

Family close complete family listing

father:
John A Amos.
mother:
Annabell P Amos.
daughter:
Shannon Patrice Amos.
son:
K C Amos.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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