Esther Rolle was born in Pompano Beach, Florida on November 8, 1920. The 10th of 18 children of Bahamian immigrants, she attended Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, Florida and Spelman College before moving to New York City.

Esther eventually received a scholarship to study acting at the New School for Social Research. She made her stage debut in “The Blacks” in 1962. Other stage works include “The Crucible” and “Blues for Mr. Charlie.” Esther became one of the founding members of Douglas Turner Ward's Negro Ensemble Company along with actress Roxie Roker. With Ward's company, Rolle performed in "Summer of the Seventeenth Doll" and "God Is A (Guess What?)," which she also played in London in 1969.

In the early 1970s, she was appearing in the Melvin Van Peebles play "Don't Play Us Cheap" when she was offered the role of Florida Evans, the wise and wisecracking housekeeper on the sitcom "Maude." She was a series regular from 1972 to 1974. The character proved so popular that producers decided to spin off a whole new show around Esther. "Good Times" ran on CBS from 1974 to 1979. Esther felt that the series was an opportunity to depict a poor but proud African-American family with a strong father figure at the center. But when John Amos who played the father, upset that co-star Jimmie "J.J." Walker was dominating the series and left Good Times in 1974, she echoed the words of such groups as the National Black Media Coalition in chastising the series, where an irresponsible, wisecracking teenaged cut-up was now head of the household. When her contract ran out in 1977 Esther joined John Amos in bolting "Good Times." After a year of pursuing other projects she was back on “Good Times,” having been assured that she would be given full script approval and that the J.J. character had matured. But by this time, audiences had wearied of "Good Times" and the series was cancelled in 1979.

Besides “Good Times” Esther was also a series regular in the daytime drama “One Life To Live” and “Singer & Sons.” Esther has guest starred in “Darkroom,” “Flamingo Road,” “The New Odd Couple,” “Fantasy Island,” “The Love Boat,” “Murder She Wrote” and “Touched by an Angel.” Her telefilm credits include “Summer Of My German Soldier” for which she won an Emmy Award, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,”(for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award) “See China & Die,” “A Raisin In The Sun,” “Age Old Friends,” “Scarlett,” “The Kid Who Loved Christmas” and “To Dance with the White Dog.”
Esther’s feature film roles include “Cleopatra Jones,” “Nothing But a Man,” “The Mighty Quinn,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “House of Cards,” “Rosewood,” “How to Make An American Quilt” and “Down In The Delta.”

In 1990, Esther became the first woman to receive the NAACP Chairman's Civil Rights Leadership Award, which honored her work in helping raise the image of blacks. She was an honorary member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.

Esther passed away on November 17, 1998 of complications from diabetes. Her death occurred a month before the debut of her film “Down In The Delta.”

Esther's film roles include the following:

Check out the following sites for additional information about Esther:

Esther Rolle Page
Esther Rolle@African American Registry
Esther Rolle@Internet Movie Database
Esther Rolle@My
Esther Rolle@Wikipedia
Good Times@Wikipedia
'Good Times' matriarch Esther Rolle dies at 78
The Good Times Online Scrapbook

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