in , ,

How Each Sanford and Son Cast Member Died

Did you grow up watching the sitcom Sanford and Son? It was based on the equally popular British sitcom Steptoe and Son and was one of the most popular – and funniest American sitcoms of all times!

Sanford and Son told the story of junkyard owner Fred G. Sanford – and the ‘G’ always stood for something else and his son Lamont as they tried to navigate through life in Watts, Los Angeles.

The show’s success came from the excellent writers and was one of the many masterpieces created by Norman Lear. But the real magic of the show came from the excellent cast members – of whom, many, have sadly left us.

Join FactsVerse to learn how each Sanford and Son cast member died and their incredible legacies…


John Elroy Sanford was born on the ninth of December, 1922, in St. Louis, Missouri. His early life and personal experiences would later inspire his character Fred G. Sanford on Sanford and Son.

The surname, of course, came from John’s own surname. “Fred” was the name of his brother, and the character Fred G. Sanford also grew up in St. Louis – just like John did for the first few years of his life. Later, John moved to Chicago, and this is where he spent his formative years.

So how did John get the unique nickname, Redd Foxx? John was part Native American and part white American and this gave him a reddish complexion including red hair.

As a young man, while he was pursuing a stand-up comedy career, he worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant. He was given the nickname ‘Chicago Red’ from his hometown and his hair. He even had a colleague who had the nickname ‘Detroit Red.’ His colleague, by the way, was later known as Malcolm X!

Chicago Red began performing stand-up comedy at local nightclubs. At his job as a dishwasher, he’d gained a reputation for being able to crack jokes and make others laugh. He performed raunchy blue humor which was a huge hit.

He later chose the moniker ‘Redd Foxx’ Redd came from his complexion and hair and ‘Fox’ was because he wanted to present himself as being sly as a fox. He added an extra ‘d’ and ‘x’ to the name for stylistic reasons.

Sanford and Son was Redd Foxx’s launch to stardom and made him more mainstream. His performance as Fred G. Sanford remains one of the greatest sitcom characters of all time.

Redd Foxx’s death was an ironic tragedy. In Sanford and Son, there were many scenes where Fred would pretend to have a heart attack. Years later, while working on an episode of the show The Royal Family, Redd was having a heart attack in front of his fellow cast members. Sadly, they thought it was him doing an impression – and it was too late before they realized he was actually suffering.

Redd Foxx passed away on the eleventh of October, 1991, at the age of 69. His legacy, however, lives on and he remains an inspiration for many great comedians who came after him.

Before we tell you more about how each Sanford and Son cast member died, please like this video and subscribe to FactsVerse for more pop culture stories and interesting documentaries. Now, back to the video…



Alberta Peal, later known as LaWanda Page, was born on October 19, 1920, in Cleveland, Ohio. She and her family eventually moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she went to school with Redd Foxx and the two would remain friends until Foxx’s death in 1991.

At the age of 15, she began her show business career – working as a fire dancer. She later began performing stand-up comedy and became a star on the Chitlin’ Circuit – a comedy circuit for African-American comedians who performed outside of the mainstream.

She became rather well-known in the stand-up scene and sold a few comedy albums sold through Laff Records.

She reached the mainstream when she was cast as Aunt Esther in Sanford and Son. Her most popular scenes involved her getting into tiffs with Fred and her popular catchphrase ‘Watch it sucka!’

She continued to make television appearances after the show ended in shows such as Sanford, Sanford Arms, and The Love Boat. She also had a few movie appearances in films such as Zapped!, My Blue Heaven, CB4, and Friday.

She died of a heart attack in September, 2002, at the age of 81 in Hollywood, California.



Whitman Mayo came into this world on November 15, 1930, when he was born in New York City. As a child, he grew up in Harlem and Queens.

Through much of his adult life, he worked a variety of odd jobs including being a waiter, probation officer, vineyard worker, and even a counselor to troubled children. In the 1970s, he found a job working at the New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem.

On one fateful night, Whitman came across Norman Lear who was the creator of Sanford and Son. Norman Lear offered him a role as Grady Wilson in Sanford and Son. Before this, Whitman only had 1 supporting role in a 1966 film called The Black Klansman.

Yet, even with his limited acting experience, Whitman was able to excel in the role of Grady. There was a brief period where Redd Foxx didn’t appear on the show and several episodes focused only on Grady and Lamont – played by Demond Wilson. Grady was such a loved character that he managed to continue the show even during Foxx’s absence.

Whitman Mayo reprised his role in a short-lived sitcom called ‘Grady.’ He continued to work regularly in television and film for the rest of his life – and became one of the most recognized actors in African-American cinema and television.

He died of a heart attack on May 22, 2001, at the age of 70 in an Atlanta hospital. Ironically, the name of the hospital – was Grady Memorial Hospital!



Don Bexley was born on March 10, 1910. Some sources say he was born in Detroit, Michigan while others say he was born in Jamestown, Virginia. His mother was a classical vocalist, and his father was a teacher as well as an expert on the Holy Bible.

This background is what led Don to take an interest in entertainment. He had a varied career as an orchestra master, singer, dancer, and even a stand-up comedian. He began his stand-up career in the 1940s working in New York. He eventually began collaborating with many famous comedians – including Redd Foxx, with whom he became close friends with.

The two of them later worked together in the 1970 film Cotton Comes to Harlem. When Sanford and Son began, Redd Foxx convinced the show’s producers to hire Don Bexley to play Fred’s friend Bubba. Despite having minimal acting experience and never appearing on TV before, Don Bexley became a hit on the show playing Bubba Bexley!

He reprised this role on Sanford Arms and made many appearances on other popular TV shows such as Laverne and Shirley, Hunter, and The Royal Family. His film appearances included Uptown Saturday Night, What’s Up Doc, Sparkle, and Vibes.

He died from heart and kidney failure at the age of 87 on April 15, 1997, in Hampton, Virginia.


Nathaniel Taylor was born in March, 1938, in St. Louis, Missouri. As a young man, he worked as an electrician at the Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles. It was during this time that his mentor, filmmaker Larry Clark, suggested that Nathaniel try his hand at acting.

Nathaniel read out a few lines for a new character in Sanford and Son. He was soon cast as Rollo Lawson – Lamont’s friend who was always getting him into trouble!

This became the role that Nathaniel Taylor became best known for. He later played Rollo once again on the short-lived sitcom Sanford.

He also played Rollo in one episode of ‘Grady.’ He was also known for his role as Jim-Jam on The Redd Foxx Show and Ike on What’s Happennin!!

He also appeared in a few films including Trouble Man, Black Girl, As Above So Below, Willie Dynamite, The Hunter, and appeared as himself in a short film called Auditioning for Nathaniel.

He died of a heart attack on February 27, 2019, at the age of 80.



Pat Morita was born on June 28, 1932, is Isleton, California. He was a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Japan.

He worked a series of odd jobs during his adult years including working at a DMV, working in his family’s restaurant, working at Aerojet General, and Lockheed. He also gained a reputation for entertaining others and making others laugh.

He eventually quit his day job and decided to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. It took him several years, but eventually he became well-known on the nightclub circuit. His mentor, was none other than Redd Foxx.

He was later cast as Ah Chew who was one of Lamont’s friends and who often had tiffs with Fred. Pat was one of the first Asian-American actors to make an impact and have a popular role on a sitcom.

He had a varied career in film and television and in later years, he became best-known for his role as “Mr. Miyagi” in the Karate Kid films.

Pat Morita died of kidney failure on November 24, 2005, at his home in Las Vegas. He was 73 years old.

Are you a fan of Sanford and Son? The show was one of the funniest sitcoms in America and remains one of the most iconic sitcoms in history!

Now, here’s what we’d like to hear from you:

Do you think that Sanford and Son would be a popular show today? Or have tastes changed and it won’t appeal to a new audience?

Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

If you liked this story, be sure to hit the ‘like’ button and  Subscribe to FactsVerse for more great stories! Hit the bell icon to receive regular notifications!

We’ll see you in the next video!

George Spanky McFarland Was Never the Same After Our Gang Ended

Blaze Starr Lived Her Life Like an Erotic Dream