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Franklin Cover, 77, comic foil to Sherman Hemsley

LOS ANGELES -- Franklin Cover, who became a familiar face as Tom Willis, George and Louise Jefferson's white neighbor in the long-running sitcom ''The Jeffersons," has died, his publicist said Thursday. He was 77.

Mr. Cover died of pneumonia Sunday at the Lillian Booth Actor's Fund of America home in Englewood, N.J., said publicist Dale Olson. Mr. Cover had been living at the home since December 2005 while recuperating from a heart condition.

In his nearly six decades in show business, Mr. Cover made numerous appearances on television shows, including ''The Jackie Gleason Show," ''All in the Family," ''Will & Grace," ''Living Single," ''Mad About You," ''ER," and ''Who's the Boss?"

He began his career on the stage, appearing in Shakespeare's ''Hamlet" and ''Henry IV," and later in numerous Broadway productions, including ''Any Wednesday," ''Wild Honey," and ''Born Yesterday."

But Mr. Cover was best known for his role in ''The Jeffersons," in which he portrayed a man who was married to a black woman.

He and his wife lived in the same ''deluxe apartment building" that George Jefferson moved his family to after making money in the dry-cleaning business.

There, Mr. Cover often played a comic foil to Sherman Hemsley's blustering, opinionated black businessman. The show ran from 1975 to 1985.

Mr. Cover also appeared in several films, including ''The Great Gatsby," ''The Stepford Wives," and ''Wall Street."

He leaves his wife, Mary; and a son and a daughter.

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