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Icon: Redd Foxx

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Icon : Redd Foxx

John Elroy Sanford (December 9, 1922 – October 11, 1991), better known by his stage name Redd Foxx, was best known for his starring role on the sitcom,Sanford and Son. Sanford and Son premiered on the NBC  on January 14, 1972 and lasted for six seasons. Foxx’s character Fred G. Sanford, was a tribute to his late brother.

Foxx was born in St. Louis, Missouri and raised on Chicago‘s South Side. His mother, Mary (Hughes) Sanford Carson from Ellisville, Mississippi, was half Seminole Indian.  His father, Fred Sanford, from Heckman, Kentucky, was an electrician and auto mechanic, who left his family when Foxx was four years old. Foxx was raised by his mother, his minister, and his grandmother. He briefly attended DuSable High School with future Chicago mayor, Harold Washington.

In the 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 surname was taken from baseball star , Jimmie Foxx. During World War II, Foxx dodged the draft by eating half a bar of soap before his physical, a trick that resulted in heart palpitations.

Foxx gained notoriety with his nightclub act during the 1950’s and 60’s.

“They say I can’t say a certain word at the end of my routine, so I’ll say it in the middle” says Foxx, “I lost a lot of jobs.” Although he may have shocked and offended some with his language, Foxx gained more than he lost when he moved New York City.  Foxx performed in a plethora of Harlem spots including: Clark Monroe’s Uptown House, Small’s Paradise, Harlem Theater and Jimmy’s Chicken Shack. 

Foxx’s influences has rippled throughout the generations and include Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Andrew Dice Clay, Jamie Foxx, Bernie Mac, Nipsey Russell, Bill Cosby, Michael Douglas, Michael Jackson, Chris Rock , and Anthony Anderson . The impression that Foxx has made on comedy is immutable.  

In an interview with Pat Morita, otherwise known as, Karate Kids, Mr. Miyagi, he professes Foxx as his mentor and recounts Foxx’s good deeds and his pay it forward attitude. Morita recalls the story of his serious encounter with a rarely serious Mr. Foxx in which Morita asked to burrow $7,500 from Foxx under a vow to pay him back. Foxx gave him the money and rejected his offer to pay him back asking only in return that Morita instead pay it forward to the next person once, he makes it.

According to those who knew him, generosity was as much a part of his legacy as his stamp on the comedy industry. “I don’t mind giving my money away,” Foxx declares. “I like to help people out whenever I can. I have it to give away. I have more than enough.”

Whether it’s Foxx’s charitableness or his curse- infused rants on the stage, Foxx has blazed a trail way for the greats in entertainment. After almost 3 decades after his death Foxx continues to keep us laughing, yes, but even more, Foxx continues to keep us captivated, entranced and inspired.

 

By Larryse Brown

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