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Eddie Anderson became one of the highest-paid entertainers of his era and while he often played stereotypical roles, Anderson managed to bring a dignified air to his characters. The Oakland, Calif. native was born September 18, 1905.

Edmund Lincoln Anderson was born into a family of entertainers. His mother was a tightrope walker whose career ended early because of a fall and a father who worked as a minstrel show performer. At 14, Anderson and his brother Cornelius became a popular vaudeville act and began touring.



 Anderson’s big break came in 1937 after he made his debut on “The Jack Benny Program” radio show. His distinctive voice, which he earned after damaging his vocal cords as a newspaper seller as a boy, allowed him to stand out. Although he played a redcap initially, Anderson’s appearance was so well received that he became a show regular, remaining with the program through its transition to television before it ended in 1965.

Anderson ultimately morphed into the character Rochester, Benny’s wisecracking valet. Although the role was seen as subservient, Benny allowed Anderson to play up the character’s wits and smarts, often outshining him. It helped Anderson land other opportunities in films like “Gone With The Wind” and The Green Pastures” among others.

Anderson was a brilliant businessman who invested his earnings wisely. Among his investments and hobbies was horse racing, helping him become the first African-American to have a horse entered in the Kentucky Derby. He also owned a parachute company that contracted out to the U.S. Army and Navy.

Even in the sunset of his life in 1977, Anderson retained much of his considerable wealth. He was known for his philanthropy and generosity and opened his Los Angeles home and its large pool to neighborhood children free of charge.

In one last act of charity, Anderson made certain that in death, his sizable home would be put to good use. The home was transformed into a transitional facility for men struggling with drug abuse.

Anderson’s son, Eddie Jr. established a philanthropic foundation in his father’s name.