Freeman Gosden created and played Amos on the “Amos ‘n’ Andy” radio show during its 32-year run.
Gosden and Charles J. Correll began as “Sam and Henry” on Chicago’s WGN in 1926, changing the names of their characters when they left to form their own syndicate two years later.
The nightly “Amos ‘n’ Andy” show became such an American institution that many movie theaters stopped their films and piped in the program to attract and hold their audiences.
Millions of listeners, in those days before feelings of concern for minorities seeped into the national consciousness, making such mass entertainment unacceptable, laughed over the two white men portraying the operators of the Fresh-Air Taxicab Co. and using terms such as “I’se regusted.”
Gosden played not only the hardworking, trusting Amos (against Correll’s lazy, gullible Andy), but Kingfish and Lightnin’ as well. For publicity photographs, they wore blackface and funny hats.
However, they abandoned those parodies when the “Amos ‘n’ Andy” television series came along, preferring to leave that to an all-black cast.
Nevertheless, it was 1960 before the radio version ended after 32 uninterrupted years. Gosden and Correll, who never missed a show and would even do a broadcast from a hospital room when one or the other was ill, reportedly got along surprisingly well.
When Correll died in 1972, Gosden said, “We were partners for 32 years and friends for 50. During all that time, we never exchanged an unkind word.”
Gosden said too: “Both Charles and I have deep respect for black men. We felt our show helped characterize Negroes as interesting and dignified human beings.”
In retirement, Gosden had homes in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs and was friendly with several U.S. presidents, particularly Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was his frequent golfing partner.
Gosden was born May 5, 1899, in Richmond, Va., one of four children of a former Confederate Army soldier who had refused to surrender at the end of the Civil War.
Gosden took an interest in show business as a boy, diving into a carnival tank at 10 and assisting Thurston the Magician at 12. He eventually was hired to direct shows for a company that produced entertainment for fraternal and charitable groups.
It was with that organization that he met the older Correll. In Chicago in the mid-1920s, they worked up song-and-chatter routines and finally got into radio, telling jokes, announcing and playing the piano for WGN.
Then came “Sam and Henry” and in 1928, “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” which brought the nation to a virtual halt every weeknight for 15 minutes.