Actor John Amos was one of Black America’s first iconic television dads. The Newark native has taken his love for acting and created a career of presenting strong male characters that show a wide range of the Black experience — even walking away from jobs when they did not express authentic and well-rounded images of African-American manhood.
Born on Dec. 27, 1939, Amos can be defined as more than just an actor, as he has worn many different hats in show business, including those of screenwriter/playwright, producer, and even a comedian. Diversifying himself has been key to maintaining relevance in his career and earning him an estimated net worth of $3 million.
A Working Actor
Over the last 50 years, Amos has appeared on both the big and little screen in a variety of iconic roles.
He started working in 1965, cast in smaller roles in “The Trials of O’Brien,” “The Late Show,” “Let’s Do It Again,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “The World’s Greatest Athlete.”
In 1974, he debuted as the father, James Evans, on Norman Lear’s hit show “Good Times.”
The storyline was about a Chicago family living in public housing but redefining the American stereotypes about the African-American work ethic and family structure. With both a mother and father in the home, “Good Times” defied the narrative that Black men did not support their families.
Despite the show’s success, the stars and the Black co-creator were not compensated well.
One of the show’s Black co-creators, Eric Monte, sued to get his rightful piece of the pie. In 1977, he filed a lawsuit about his compensation from that show as well as “The Jeffersons” and “What’s Happening!” two shows he said he was never properly credited for. He eventually settled for $1 million, and 1 percent of the ”Good Times” royalties.
What Amos earned from “Good Times” is not public record, but his departure from the show was. He said he left “Good Times” because the emphasis on the show was wrong.
“I felt that with two younger children — one of whom aspired to become a Supreme Court Justice — that would be Ralph Carter (Michael Evans) and the other, Bern Nadette Stanis (Thelma Evans) who aspired to become a surgeon,” Amos stated.
Adding, “The differences I had with the producers of the show, I felt that there was too much emphasis being put on J.J. and his chicken hat saying ‘Dynomite!’ … when just as much emphasis and mileage could have been gotten out of my other two children.”
He was fired in 1976 because show writers and producers said he was a “disruptive element,” because he was so adamant about the family’s portrayal.
His next iconic role was “Roots,” where he played Kunte Kinte, the purported African ancestor of author Alex Haley.
In 1977, the mini-series was played as an eight consecutive-nights television viewing event that brought in over 130 million viewers, more than half of the nation’s population at the time.
“Roots” became the top-rated production ever made or aired on television. Nielsen says 51.1 percent of all Americans tuned in, beating out even the Super Bowl game between the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings that happened around the same time that year.
Amos has appeared in over 200 TV shows and films, including “Die Hard 2.”
Eddie Murphy cast him in the cult classic “Coming to America” as burger mogul Cleo McDowell. He appeared in both offerings of the movie.
He also starred as Percy Fitzwallace, the Navy admiral that served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for most of the Bartlet administration on the NBC show “The West Wing.“
After appearing in 22 episodes, in 2020, he said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “I don’t think I could have enjoyed myself more on any show, including the series that I was a regular on. This was probably some of the finest writing that I’d ever had a chance to participate in.”
His charmed career as an actor has afforded him a good life where he couls invest in real estate and earn streams of wealth from other places.
In 2000, he bought a property in Studio City, CA for $1.25 million and eight years later flipped it for $1.85 million, NCESC.com reports.
Another big sale for the octogenarian was made in 2015 when he sold one Toluca Lake property for $1.99 million.
His modest fortune has been at the root of a recent scandal introduced by his daughter, Shannon. Shannon recently started a crowdfunding campaign claiming that her father had been hospitalized and had “fallen victim to elder abuse and financial exploitation.”
The GoFundMe Scandal
In a GoFundMe profile, she said, “His home had been violated, stripped of anything valuable,” and that she and other members of the family have contacted the Colorado Bureau of Investigations and other law enforcement agencies to get justice for the 83-year-old.
Amos has publicly denied her claim, saying to TMZ that he is not being abused by anyone and has no idea why she would assert his finances have been compromised or that he is fighting for his life. His rep, Belinda Foster, also said, that while he has been hospitalized for a health matter, “America’s Dad” is doing much better.