Hemsley Still Not Buried Due to Will Dispute

Philly man claiming to be "Jeffersons" star's brother contests will

The embalmed body of actor Sherman Hemsley, who became famous for his role as television's George Jefferson, remained in refrigeration Thursday at an El Paso funeral home as a local court rules on the validity of his will.

In the will the native of Philadelphia signed six weeks before dying of lung cancer July 24, Hemsley named Flora Enchinton, 56, whom he called a "beloved partner," as sole beneficiary of his estate, which is estimated in court documents to be more than $50,000.

The will is being contested by Richard Thornton, of Philadelphia, who claims to be Hemsley's brother and says the will might not have been made by the actor.

Enchinton told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she had been friends with Hemsley, who was 74, and had been his manager for more than 20 years. Over the time she, Hemsley and Hemsley's friend Kenny Johnston, 76, lived together, she said he never mentioned any relatives.

"Some people come out of the woodwork -- they think Sherman, they think money," Enchinton said. "But the fact is that I did not know Sherman when he was in the limelight. I met them when they (Hemsley and Johnston) came running from Los Angeles with not one penny, when there was nothing but struggle."

Mark Davis, listed in court documents as Thornton's lawyer in El Paso, did not immediately respond to messages left at his office.

There is no date set for the case to be heard, court officials said. Enchinton said she hopes it will all be cleared in court.

Hemsley, who grew up in South Philly, played Jefferson in the CBS sitcom All in the Family, then starred in the spinoff The Jeffersons from 1975 to 1985. It was one of TV's longest-running and most successful sitcoms, particularly noteworthy for its predominantly black cast.

Hemsley made George Jefferson -- the bigoted, blustering Harlem businessman -- one of TV's most memorable characters and a symbol for urban upward mobility.

A memorial service scheduled for two weeks ago in Philly was canceled because it was questioned if organizer Michael Wells was actually Hemsley's cousin as he claims he is.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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