Whitman Mayo

Whitman Blount Mayo Jr. (November 15, 1930 – May 22, 2001) was an American actor, best known for his role as Grady Wilson on the 1970s television sitcom Sanford and Son.

Whitman Mayo
Whitman Blount Mayo Jr.

(1930-11-15)November 15, 1930
DiedMay 22, 2001(2001-05-22) (aged 70)
Years active1966–2001
Spouse(s)Gail Reid (1974–2001)
Patricia Yorck (1966–1974)
Melva Washington (m. 1956, divorced)


Early yearsEdit

Whitman Blount Mayo, Jr. was born in New York City and grew up in Harlem and later Queens. At the age of 17, he moved with his family to Southern California and from there entered the United States Army, serving from 1951 to 1953 during the Korean War. Upon release, he studied at Chaffey College, Los Angeles City College, and UCLA. During this time, he began acting in small parts, while waiting tables and working in the vineyards and as a probation officer, as well as a variety of other small jobs. He also spent seven years as a counselor to delinquent boys.


In the early 1970s, while working for the New Lafayette Theatre, Norman Lear offered Mayo a role as Grady Wilson on Sanford and Son. The character's name was based on Demond Wilson, the actor who played Lamont Sanford and whose real first name is Grady. During a period where Redd Foxx did not appear on the show due to a contract dispute, Grady moved into the Sanford house and effectively starred in the show for six episodes.

Mayo later starred in Grady, an unsuccessful spin-off in which his character moved in with his daughter and her husband in Beverly Hills. After its cancellation in 1976, Mayo's Grady character returned to Sanford and Son.

Mayo reprised the role in the unsuccessful 1977 NBC-TV spinoff series Sanford Arms with actor Theodore Wilson, and for two episodes of Sanford, another spinoff of Sanford and Son, this time with Redd Foxx and actor Dennis Burkley, in 1981.

Also in the late 1970s, Mayo appeared on the Los Angeles children's television program That's Cat, offering sage advice in a sweet manner to the main character Alice.

In 1990, he appeared in an episode of In the Heat of the Night titled "Hello in There".

In 1991, he appeared in an episode of Full House titled "The Volunteer". He played a senior named Eddie Johnson with Alzheimer's.

In 1996, Late Night with Conan O'Brien spent several weeks trying to have Mayo appear on the show. Conan even went as far to set up the "Grady Hotline", a 1–800 number where viewers could call in with any Grady "sightings". The show also aired a mock episode of Unsolved Mysteries.[1] On February 8, 1996, Mayo appeared on Late Night to much fanfare.[2][3][4] In 1997, he guest-starred in the Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan and Kel, playing Kenan and Kyra's rude, impatient Uncle Raymond.

Mayo also played a role in The Cape as Sweets, the owner of Moonshot Bar and Grill.

Mayo made several film appearances, including The Main Event with Barbra Streisand, D.C. Cab, Boyz n the Hood, and Waterproof with Burt Reynolds. Mayo also appeared as Reverend Banyon on the BET TV Movie Boycott in 2001 and in an episode of Martin. He hosted Liars and Legends on Turner South. He also made appearances in Sesame Street.

Mayo taught drama at Clark Atlanta University. He opened a travel agency in Inglewood, California. Mr. Mayo was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.


Mayo died of a heart attack on May 22, 2001 at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital. He had resided in Atlanta's Collier Heights community since 1994 with Gail Mayo, his third wife.[5] His son Rahn Mayo became a member of the Georgia House of Representatives in 2009.[6]



  1. ^ CONAN O'BRIEN, 2/7/96 – CONAN'S SEARCH FOR WHITMAN MAYO ("GRADY") – 1/5 on YouTube
  2. ^ CONAN O'BRIEN, 2/8/96 – "GRADY HAS LANDED" IN NEW YORK – 2/5 on YouTube
  3. ^ CONAN O'BRIEN, 2/8/96 – GRADY'S ARRIVAL – 4/5 on YouTube
  4. ^ Henderson, Ashyia (2002). "Whitman Mayo". Contemporary Black Biography. vol. 32. Farmington Hills: Gale Group. ISBN 0-7876-5913-4.
  5. ^ "Whitman Mayo, 'Sanford & Son's' Grady, dies at 70". CNN. 22 May 2001. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
  6. ^ "Rahn Mayo (D – Decatur) District 84". Georgia House of Representatives. Retrieved 2014-01-20.

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