EL PASO, Texas — Deceased actor Sherman Hemsley’s longtime friend can proceed with his burial and running his estate, a Texas judge ruled Friday over the objections of his half-brother.
Hemsley, who played George Jefferson on the TV sitcom “The Jeffersons,” died July 24 of lung cancer. His body has been in refrigerated storage at an El Paso funeral home since.
Judge Patricia Chew sided Friday with Flora Enchinton Bernal, who was named in Hemsley’s will as the executor of his estate.
Chew upheld the validity of his will and granted Bernal “the authority to dispose, I shouldn’t say dispose, to proceed with the remains of Sherman Hemsley in a manner as she wishes.”
DNA tests showed Friday that Richard Thornton, 78, is Hemsley’s half-brother. He wanted to bury his brother at a veterans’ cemetery in Philadelphia, where he lives and where Hemsley grew up.
Thornton’s attorney, Mark Davis, said afterward that he would seek an immediate stay of Chew’s ruling to prevent the burial from taking place. He said they will eventually appeal.
Court documents indicate that Hemsley’s estate is worth more than $50,000. Thornton’s daughter, Louise Thornton, said her father “didn’t come after money.”
“He came to bury his brother,” she said. “And they turned the whole thing into a three-ring circus.”
During his testimony, Thornton said Hemsley, four years his junior, was born from an extramarital relationship his father had. “He was a Methodist minister and would have been bad for his career,” Thornton said of their father.
Although Thornton said the two didn’t call each other or exchange Christmas cards, Hemsley once publicly acknowledged that Thornton was his brother. During a 2011 concert in New Jersey, Hemsley “introduced me to the audience and said I was his brother,” Thornton said.
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