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Redd Foxx (December 9, 1922October 11, 1991), born John Elroy Sanford, was an Americanmarker comedian and actor, best known for his starring role on the sitcom Sanford and Son.

Early life and career

Foxx was born in St. Louismarker, Missourimarker and raised on Chicagomarker's South Side. His mother was half Seminole. His father, an electrician, left the family when Foxx was four. He was raised by his mother, his minister, and his grandmother. He briefly attended DuSable High Schoolmarker with future Chicago mayor Harold Washington, but never graduated.

Moving to New Yorkmarker in the early 1940s, he was an associate of Malcolm Little later known as Malcolm X. In Malcolm's autobiography, Foxx is referred to as "Chicago Red, the funniest dishwasher on this earth." Foxx earned the nickname due to his reddish hair and complexion. His stage name surname was taken from baseball star Jimmie Foxx.

Redd Foxx then continued his career as a Plumber, getting acting jobs where he could.

Nightclub act

Foxx gained notoriety with his nightclub act (considered by the standards of the time to be raunchy). His stand-up performances were later released as "party" albums and became very popular.

He was also one of the first black comics to play to white audiences on the Las Vegas Stripmarker. Foxx used his starring role on Sanford and Son to help get jobs for his friends such as LaWanda Page, Slappy White, Gregory Sierra, and Noriyuki "Pat" Morita.

Post-Sanford and Son career

In 1977, Foxx left Sanford and Son, after six highly successful seasons (and the show was canceled solely due to his departure) to star in a short-lived variety show, but by 1980 he was back playing Fred Sanford in a brief revival/spin-off, Sanford.

Foxx appeared to be making a comeback with the 1991 series The Royal Family, in which he co-starred with his long-time friend Della Reese.


On October 11, 1991, during a break from rehearsals for The Royal Family, he suffered a fatal heart attack on the set. Reportedly, co-star Della Reese and the rest of the cast and crew thought he was doing his classic "Elizabeth, I'm coming to join you!" fake heart attack routine he made famous on Sanford and Son, even going as far as collapsing to the floor, although that was not part of the usual schtick. However, this heart attack was real, and Foxx never regained consciousness. He was 68 years old.

Foxx was posthumously given a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame on May 17, 1992.

A few years after Foxx's death several buyers of his home claimed his property was 'haunted' by him. Some people have even gone as far as claiming Foxx faked his death because he still owed the IRS money. Martin Lawrence poked fun at these claims on the pilot of his sitcom Martin. He said, "The man faked it. If you owed 16 billion dollars in taxes, what would you do?".


Comedian Chris Rock cites Redd Foxx as an influence. An episode of his show Everybody Hates Chris shows young Chris Rock overhearing his parents' Redd Foxx albums and getting started doing stand-up through retelling the jokes at school.

Actor Jamie Foxx chose the Foxx surname as part of his stage name in tribute to Redd Foxx.

Personal life

Redd Foxx was married four times. His first marriage was to Evelyn Killebrew in 1948, but was short-lived and ended in divorce in 1951.

His second marriage was to Betty Jean Harris, a showgirl and dancer, who was a fellow dancer of LaWanda Page, who would later be known as Foxx's TV rival Aunt Esther on Sanford & Son. The couple wed on July 22, 1956. Foxx adopted Harris' daughter Debreca Foxx, who was about nine years old at the time. The marriage ended in divorce in 1975.

Foxx then married Chinese-American Yun Chi Chung in 1976, but the marriage was again short-lived, ending in 1981.

At the time of his death in 1991, Foxx was married to Ka Ho Cho.

Portrayals of Foxx in popular media

In the film Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Foxx is performed by Aries Spears. He is shown performing a stand-up comedy routine.

In the animated television series Family Guy parody of Star Wars episode "Blue Harvest", Redd Foxx appears very briefly as an X-wing pilot.


TV work


  1. Redd Foxx Biography page at the Internet Movie Database
  2. Ingram, Billy. TVparty!: Television's Untold Tales, Bonus Books, 2002, p. 262. ISBN 1566251842
  3. Oberding, Janice. Haunted Nevada,, p. 94. ISBN 1581126743.
  4. Hayes, Justin Cord. 101 Things You Didn't Know About Casino Gambling, Adams Media, 2006, pp. 250-251. ISBN 1593373678

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