b. 1937

Bill Cosby, whose highly accessible humor has endeared him to fans of all races, was bom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.He attended Central High School for a year before trans¬ ferring to Germantown High School, where he dropped out after his sophomore year in 1952. Cosby worked odd jobs for three years before joining the US Navy.

He left the military and accepted an athletic scholar¬ ship to Temple University in 1960, where he played football and worked part time as a bar¬ tender. While warming up audi¬ ences at The Underground, Cos¬ by discovered the appeal of his own comedic voice. He went to work at Greenwich Village’s Gaslight in 1962 as a stand-up comedian and quit Temple to tour the nation.

After his marriage to Camille Hanks in 1964, Cosby joined the cast of “I Spy,” for which he was awarded television’s highest acknowledgement, the Emmy The show was cancelled in 1968, but Cosby was a successful star by then. He starred in the popular “Bill Cosby Show,” as well as oth¬ er projects that kept him in the public eye, before launching the phenomenally suc¬ cessful “Cosby Show” in 1984.

This televi¬ sion sit-com proved how much had changed in the public definition of race. Based on the family of a successful doctor and the aches and pains of growing up together, “The Cosby Show” became the most popu¬ lar show on television, and held that posi¬ tion for years before signing off in 1992.

Bill Cosby’s family humor highlights how little difference there is between con¬ temporary black and white Americans. With familiar concerns, familiar pleasures,familiar affections, Cosby has proved that African-Americans are first and foremost Americans.

Cosby continues to use his humor as a way of bridging societal gaps. Publishing three best-sellers, Fatherhood (1985), Time Flies (1987), and Love and Marriage (1989), Cosby is constantly finding the humor in all American life, even the most innocent events of the American family.

Although he’s achieved immense suc¬ cess and popularity among all Americans, Cosby has chosen to support the institutions that successfully raise the standard of living for African-Americans still struggling in a volatile economy. Giving 20 million dollars to Spelman College in 1988, Bill and Camille Cosby have supported the idea that African-Americans must use their success to support others who are attempting to improve their lives.