Esther Rolle, an actress best known for her portrayal of a strong, inner city mother on the 1970s sitcom "Good Times," died Nov. 17, 1998. She was 78.
Rolle was born in Pompano Beach, FL, one of 18 children of a vegetable farmer. After high school she traveled to New York City, according to AP, and began to earn stage roles.
During the '60s, she was frequently seen in productions of the Negro Ensemble Company. In 1968, she co-starred with Moses Gunn and Frances Foster in NEC's Summer of the 17th Doll by Ray Lawler. The next year, she was seen in Ray McIver's God Is a (Guess What) , Alice Childress' String and Errol Hill's Man Better Man , the last directed by Douglas Turner Ward.
In 1965, she appeared at St. Marks Playhouse in two one-act plays by Ward, Happy Ending and Day of Absence . The production ran for 225 performances. She acted in another Ward play, Day of Absence, in 1970.
Other theatre credits include Melvin Van Peebles' Don't Play as Cheap and Raisin in the Sun. "Good Times" was a spin-off of the sitcom "Maude," on which Rolle played the maid Florida Evans. "Good Times" centered around Evans' family and ran for several seasons on CBS. But Rolle left after three years when Jimmy Walker's character of J.J. quickly took over the series with his "Dyn-o mite!" schtick. She was later persuaded to return for a season.
Rolle's films include "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Rosewood."
-- By Robert Simonson