Isabel Sanford was the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a comedy series for her role as Louise "Weezie" Jefferson.
She played the strong-willed and level-headed wife opposite TV husband Sherman Hemsley's irascible and quick-tempered George in the hit series "The Jeffersons," which ran on CBS from 1975 to 1985. The role earned Sanford the Emmy in 1981, in addition to six other Emmy nods and five Golden Globe nominations.
Sanford first played the part on "All in The Family," when the Jeffersons were neighbors in Queens before "movin' on up to the East Side" of Manhattan.
The actress could draw from personal experience. Born in Harlem, she later became a single mother working as a keypunch operator during the day while acting at night off-Broadway. "If there's anything in life you consider worthwhile achieving — go for it," she once said. "I was told many times to forget show business, I had nothing going for me. But I pursued it anyway. Voila!"
She made her film debut in Stanley Kramer's 1967 interracial love story, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," playing Tillie, the white couple's loyal housekeeper who memorably speaks her mind about the plans of Sidney Poitier's character to marry the couple's young daughter.