John Amos
Born: December 27, 1939, in Newark, New Jersey
Grew up in: East Orange, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2019-20: Performing Arts

As an aspiring professional football player, John Amos was merely a contender; as an actor, he became a star.

Raised in East Orange, Amos went west for college, attending Long Beach City College and graduating from Colorado State University, where he earned a degree in sociology and played on the varsity football team. After graduation, he was a Golden Gloves boxing champion and signed a free-agent contract to play football for the American Football League’s Denver Broncos.

After failing to catch on with the Broncos, Amos played for a series of minor-league football teams, including the Jersey City Jets of the Atlantic Coast League. In 1967, he signed with the American Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs, but again failed to make the big-time squad.

Amos tried again with one more minor-league football team, and then turned to acting. He quickly scored points with his first major TV role, as weatherman Gordy Howard on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” from 1970-1973. Next, he was cast as James Evans, the father in “Good Times,” the first network television series that attempted to portray an average, African-American, working-class, two-parent family. Amos co-starred on the CBS series from 1974-1976 with Esther Rolle (as his wife, Florida Evans) and Jimmie Walker (as their goofy son).

Amos’s run on “Good Times” ended when he clashed with executive producer Norman Lear over the direction of the show, which Amos felt was not true to the African-American experience. In the ensuing years, Amos had starring or recurring roles in several TV series, including “The West Wing,” “The District” and the landmark miniseries “Roots,” in which he played the older Kunta Kinte in three episodes.

Amos also has appeared in more than 30 movies. Most notably, he portrayed Cleo McDowell, the father of Eddie Murphy’s love interest in “Coming to America” and its sequel. Other film credits include “Let’s Do It Again” (directed by and starring Sidney Poitier), “The Beastmaster” and “Die Hard 2.” Amos’s theatrical appearances have taken him to Broadway and the McCarter Theatre in Princeton.

A longtime resident of Tewksbury, Amos is a veteran of the 50th Armored Division of the New Jersey National Guard and Honorary Master Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Intro/Acceptance Video