American Football Database
American Football Database
Bill Cosby
File:Bill Cosby (2010).jpg
Cosby in February 2010
BornWilliam Henry Cosby Jr.
(1937-07-12) July 12, 1937 (age 84)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
OccupationActor, comedian, author, producer, musician, activist
Years active1962–present
Notable work(s)I Spy
The Bill Cosby Show
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
The Cosby Show
The Cosby Mysteries
The Electric Company
Spouse(s)Camille Hanks (1964–present)
ChildrenErika, Erinn, Ensa, Evin, Ennis

William Henry "Bill" Cosby Jr. (born July 12, 1937) is an American comedian, actor, author, television producer, educator, musician and activist. A veteran stand-up performer, he got his start at the hungry i in San Francisco and various other clubs, then landed a starring role in the 1960s action show I Spy. He later starred in his own sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show. He was one of the major performers on the children's television series The Electric Company during its first two seasons, and created the educational cartoon comedy series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, about a group of young friends growing up in the city. Cosby also acted in a number of films.

During the 1980s, Cosby produced and starred in one of the decade's defining sitcoms, The Cosby Show, which aired eight seasons from 1984 to 1992. It was the number one show in America for five straight years (1985–89).[1] The sitcom highlighted the experiences and growth of an affluent African-American family. He also produced the spin-off sitcom A Different World, which became second to The Cosby Show in ratings. He starred in the sitcom Cosby from 1996 to 2000 and hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things for two seasons.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante included him in his book The 100 Greatest African Americans.[2]

In 1976, Cosby earned a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His dissertation discussed the use of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids as a teaching tool in elementary schools.

Early life

File:Bill Cosby - USN.jpg

U.S. Navy photo of Cosby

Cosby was born on July 12, 1937[3] and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is one of four sons born to Anna Pearl (née Hite), a maid, and William Henry Cosby Sr., who served as a sailor in the U.S. Navy.[4][5] During much of his early childhood, Cosby's father was away in the U.S. armed forces and spent several years fighting in World War II. As a student, he described himself as a class clown. Cosby was the captain of both the baseball team and the track and field team at Mary Channing Wister Public School in Philadelphia, as well as the class president.[6] Early on, though, teachers noted his propensity for clowning around rather than studying.[7] At FitzSimons Junior High School, Cosby began acting in plays as well as continuing his devotion to playing sports.[8] He went on to Central High School, an academically challenging magnet school, but his full schedule of playing football, basketball, baseball, and running track made it hard for him.[8] In addition, Cosby was working before and after school, selling produce, shining shoes, and stocking shelves at a supermarket to help out the family.[8] He transferred to Germantown High School, but failed the tenth grade.[9] Instead of repeating, he got a job as an apprentice at a shoe repair shop, which he liked, but could not see himself doing the rest of his life.[8] Subsequently, he joined the Navy, serving at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland and at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.[10]

While serving in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman for four years, Cosby worked in physical therapy with some seriously injured Korean War casualties.[10] He finished his equivalency diploma via correspondence courses.[11] He then won a track and field scholarship to Philadelphia's Temple University in 1961–62,[12] and studied physical education while running track and playing fullback on the football team.

As Cosby progressed through his undergraduate studies, he continued to hone his talent for humor, joking with fellow enlistees in the service and then with college friends. When he began bar tending at the Cellar, a club in Philadelphia, to earn money, he became fully aware of his ability to make people laugh. He worked his customers and saw his tips increase, then ventured onto the stage.[13]

Personal life

Cosby met his future wife, Camille Olivia Hanks, while he was performing stand-up in Washington, D.C., in the early 1960s, when she was a student at the University of Maryland. They married on January 25, 1964, and had five children: four daughters Erika Ranee (b. 1965), Erinn Chalene (b. 1966), Ensa Camille (b. 1973), and Evin Harrah (b. 1976), and a son Ennis William (1969–1997). Their son Ennis was murdered on January 16, 1997 while changing a flat tire on the side of Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. In addition to his five children, Cosby has three grandchildren through his two youngest daughters.[14]

Cosby is a Protestant Christian.[15]

Cosby maintains homes in Shelburne, Massachusetts, and Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.[16]

Cosby has hosted the Los Angeles Playboy Jazz Festival since 1979. An avid musician, he's best known as a jazz drummer, although he can be seen playing bass guitar with Jerry Lewis and Sammy Davis, Jr. on Hugh Hefner's 1970s talk show. His story "The Regular Way" was featured in Playboy's December 1968 issue.[17]

Cosby is an active alumnus supporter of his alma mater, Temple University, and in particular its men's basketball team, whose games Cosby frequently attends. He is a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He was initiated in the fraternity's Beta Alpha Alpha graduate chapter in White Plains, New York, in 1988.[18]

Cosby also attends many public events, such as the 100th Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York City on February 2, 2007. His love for track and field athletics has also been shown with his long-time sponsorship and on-track work with the Penn Relays. For many years, Cosby has been known to work the finish line at Franklin Field and congratulate athletes.

During the 2009 NFL Draft, he celebrated the draft with former Texas Longhorns wide receiver Quan Cosby as a means of support, though the two are not related.[19]


In July 1997, Cosby testified that he made private payments to Shawn Upshaw, a woman who had briefly been his lover in Las Vegas during the early 1970s. Upshaw later told Cosby that her daughter, Autumn Jackson, was his daughter, too, but he denied it. Cosby said he gave Upshaw a total of about $100,000 because he did not want her to publicly reveal the affair.[20] Twenty-two-year-old Autumn Jackson was sentenced to 26 months in jail for trying to extort $40 million from Cosby.[21]

In November 2006, Cosby settled a lawsuit filed by a Canadian woman who said he had drugged and sexually assaulted her in his Philadelphia home in 2004.[16][22]


  1. "Classic TV & Movie Hits - The Cosby Show". Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  2. Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). The 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  3. "Monitor". Entertainment Weekly (Time Inc.) (1215): pp. 20. Jul 13, 2012.
  4. "Bill Cosby Biography (1937–)". Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  5. "A Glimpse at Bill Cosby's Virginia Roots". Archived from the original on 26 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  6. "Bill Cosby Trivia". Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  7. "Bill Cosby and Me – Behind the Lens". The Washington Post. 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Ghare, Madhavi. "Bill Cosby Biography". Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  9. William Morris Agency, retrieved May 31, 2006
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Transition Profile — Bill Cosby". Veterans Careers. Archived from the original on 10 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  11. "Bill Cosby". The Kennedy Center. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  12. "Bill Cosby". Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  13. Verve Records, retrieved May 31, 2006[dead link]
  14. Bill Cosby grandchildren
  15. "Q&A: Bill Cosby Talks Family, Faith and Tim Tebow".
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Bill Cosby settles lawsuit in drug, sexual assault case". LA Times. Associated Press. November 9, 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2006.
  17. Cosby, Bill. "The Regular Way", page 115, Playboy, December 1968
  18. "Beta Alpha Alpha Chapter Lines". Beta Alpha Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
  19. Halliburton, Suzanne (2009-04-23). "For Quan and comedian, draft will be the Cosby show". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  20. Goldman, John (July 16, 1997). "Cosby Testifies About Secret Payments". Los Angeles Times.
  21. Weiser, Benjamin (November 16, 1999). "Judges Reinstate Conviction In Extortion of Bill Cosby". The New York Times.
  22. Shannon P. Duffy (November 9, 2006). "Bill Cosby Strikes Confidential Settlement in Sex-Assault Lawsuit". Law.Com. Retrieved 20 January 2006.

General references

External links