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William Henry "Bill" Cosby Edit Profile

BIll Cosby

also known as William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr. "The Cos"

activist , actor , comedian , educator , producer , writer

William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr. is an American comedian, actor, author, television producer, educator, musician and activist. A veteran stand-up performer, he got his start at various clubs, then landed a starring role in the 1960s action show, I Spy. He later starred in his own series, the situation comedy "The Bill Cosby Show"


Bill Cosby was born on July 12, 1937, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He dropped out of high school to join the U.S. Navy, and later dropped out of college to become a stand-up comedian. Cosby's first acting assignment, in the espionage series I Spy (1965-68), made him the first black actor to star in a dramatic role on network television. Cosby's most successful work, The Cosby Show, appeared on NBC from 1984 to 1992, and was the highest-rated sitcom for five consecutive years...

Cosby, the oldest of four boys, grew up in Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood. At first, the Cosbys were able to get by, financially, but the family's money began to slip when Cosby's father, William Cosby Sr., began drinking heavily. After his father enlisted in the U.S. Navy, Cosby became like a parent to his brothers. Cosby's mother, Anna, worked cleaning houses. He and his family ended up living in the Richard Allen Homes, a low-income housing project in his neighborhood. At the age of 8, Cosby suffered a great loss when his brother James, the second oldest of the boys, died.

With money very tight for his family, Cosby started shining shoes to help out when he was 9 years old. He also later found a job at a supermarket. Despite their hardships, Cosby's mother stressed the value of education and learning. She often read to Bill and his brothers, including the works by Mark Twain. A gifted storyteller himself, Cosby learned early on that humor could be a way to make friends and to get what he wanted. Cosby excelled at making things up. As one of his teachers once noted, "William should become either a lawyer or an actor because he lies so well.''


In school, Cosby was bright but unmotivated. He liked to tell stories and jokes to his classmates more than he liked to do his schoolwork. One of his teachers encouraged him to put his performing talents to use in school plays, not in her classroom. While he was more interested in sports than academics- he was active on his school's track and football teams- Cosby was placed in a high school for gifted students after scoring high on an IQ test. But Cosby failed to apply himself, and ended up falling behind in his classes. He switched to Germantown High School, and even there he learned that he would have to repeat a grade. In frustration, Cosby dropped out of high school. He worked several odd jobs before joining the U.S. Navy in 1956.

During his military service, Cosby worked as a medical aide on ships, in several hospitals and at other facilities. He also joined the Navy's track team where he excelled, especially in the high jump event. Regretting his decision to drop out of school, Cosby earned his high school equivalency diploma while in the service. After leaving the Navy, he went to Temple University where he had been given a track scholarship.

He finished his equivalency diploma via correspondence courses and was awarded a track and field scholarship to Philadelphia's Temple University in 1961. There, he studied physical education while running track and playing fullback on the university's football team.


Cosby left Temple to pursue a career in comedy, lining up standup jobs at clubs first in Philadelphia and then in New York City, where he appeared at The Gaslight Cafe beginning in 1962. He booked dates in cities such as Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.. He received national exposure on NBC's The Tonight Show in the summer of 1963. This led to a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, who, in 1964, released his debut LP Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow...Right!, the first of a series of comedy albums.

While many comics of the time were using the growing freedom of that decade to explore material that was controversial and sometimes risqué, Cosby was making his reputation with humorous recollections of his childhood. Many Americans wondered about the absence of race as a topic in Cosby's stories. As Cosby's success grew he had to defend his choice of material regularly; as he argued, "A white person listens to my act and he laughs and he thinks, 'Yeah, that's the way I see it too.' Okay. He's white. I'm Negro. And we both see things the same way. That must mean that we are alike. Right? So I figure this way I'm doing as much for good race relations as the next guy."

In 1965, Cosby also helped show television networks and audiences alike that an African-American could play a leading role in a TV series. He starred with Robert Culp in the espionage series I Spy. The two spies pretended to be a professional tennis player (Culp) traveling with his coach (Cosby). The show ran for three years, and Cosby received three Emmy Awards for his work.

Not long after I Spy ended, Cosby starred in his own sitcom. The Bill Cosby Show ran for two seasons, from 1969 to 1971, and featured the comedian as a gym teacher at a Los Angeles high school. A former aspiring teacher, Cosby went back to school at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Around the same time, he appeared on the educational children's series The Electric Company, and developed the animated series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, which he based on many of his childhood experiences. In 1977, Cosby received a doctorate in urban education from the university, having written his dissertation on Fat Albert.

On the big screen, Cosby enjoyed box-office success with the 1974 comedy Uptown Saturday Night, co-starring alongside Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte in the film. Continuing to attract big audiences, he appeared opposite Poitier in two comedy smashes, Let's Do It Again and A Piece of the Action, in 1975 and 1977, respectively.


  • Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow...Right! (1963)

    I Started Out as a Child (1964)

    Why Is There Air? (1965)

    Wonderfulness (1966)

    Revenge (1967)

    To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With (1968)

    200 Master of Public Health (1968)

    8:15 12:15 (1969)

    It's True! It's True! (1969)

    Sports (1969)

    Live: Madison Square Garden Center (1970)

    When I Was a Kid (1971)

    For Adults Only (1971)

    Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs (1971)

    Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby (1972)

    Fat Albert (1973)

    My Father Confused Me... What Must I Do? What Must I Do? (1977)

    Bill's Best Friend (1978)

    Bill Cosby: Himself (1982)

    Those of You With or Without Children, You'll Understand (1986)

    OH, Baby (1991)


  • book

    • The Wit and Wisdom of Fat Albert, Windmill Books, 1973.

    • Bill Cosby's Personal Guide to Tennis Power; or Don't Lower the Lob, Raise the Net, Random House, 1975.

    • Fatherhood, Doubleday, 1986.

    • Childhood, Putnam, 1991.

    • Shipwreck Saturday, (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 1998.

    • Cosbyology, Hyperion, 2001.


Cosby was raised in a dual-religion household: Methodist and Baptist. Surprisingly, Cosby isn’t all that religious. He says that he identifies with both denominations but when it comes to going to church or otherwise practicing his faith, he’s more of an “absentee voter” and saying:

There are times when I will regard and think consciously about [my faith] and then there are times when I move without it.

Cosby respects the positive influence church can have on a society, if used properly, and cites the Muslim religion as an example, saying:

If you visit these neighborhoods and look, the thing that stands out with the black Muslims is no drugs, no alcohol.

And Cosby is critical of evangelists. He says they miss the point. Rather than trying to “conquer” someone with their faith, they should be focusing on modeling their own behavior after Christ.

Cosby is a career comedian, and as such, doesn’t mind using religion and the Bible for jokes and has sectioned-off large portions of his book, I Didn’t Ask to Be Born (But I’m Glad I Was), to cracking wise about the story of Adam & Eve, Noah, and a host of other biblical characters.


Bill Cosby is a Democrat, make no mistake about it. Of the $20,000 Cosby has donated to political causes since 1987, the majority of it was to Democratic candidates and the rest was to either Democrat or non-partisan special interest groups.

He campaigned for Obama in 20086 and defended the president’s name in 2012. Referring to Obama’s epic battles with Congress, Cosby said: "And then when you see that [Obama] made promises and said things, the people who were supposed to be working with him didn’t. The people who are supposed to be working - even for another party - didn’t care about the American people. They wanted to get him… I believe he is for the people."

But when it comes to social values, Cosby is quite conservative–and has taken quite a bit of criticism for it. It doesn’t stop him, though, and at 75 years old, Cosby still speaks about his social views on nationwide tours, at schools and churches, and in the news.

In essence, Cosby feels that America’s black community has and is letting itself down. Cosby thinks they spend too much time blaming others for their problems and not enough time instilling family values in their kids or getting an education.9 And don’t get him started on the African-American interpretation of the English language. He says: "Everybody knows it’s important to speak English, except these knuckleheads! You can’t land a plane with [speaks gibberish]. You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap!"

But as much as the African-American community’s use of language bothers Cosby, that’s not the real issue. He says:

We’re [the black community] killing ourselves. Why? We’re making fools of ourselves.

Much of what Cosby says is perceived as him turning on his own people and ignoring other social factors in the plight of the black community.

Whether he’s right or wrong, Cosby certainly could spend the rest of his days in comfortable retirement, but he’s got the courage to get out there and speak his mind.


I'm 76. Except for brief period in the 50's when I was doing my National Service, I've worked hard since I was 17. Except for some some serious health challenges, I put in 50-hour weeks, and didn't call in sick in nearly 40 years. I made a reasonable salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, it looks as though retirement was a bad idea, and I'm tired. Very tired.

I'm tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.

Quotations: "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."


Bill Cosby is a gentle giant, and not just physically. He is a powerhouse of energy and achievement. He's best known as a standup comedian non pareil. Moreover, his TV shows have topped the ratings for many years, and he uses them as a way to promote racial reconciliation and disseminate a range of ideas that leaves other shows in the dust. After dropping out of college to become an entertainer, he went back to school and earned a doctorate in education, not to mention a dozen honorary degrees. A philanthropist, he has endorsed and funded humanitarian and educational causes, including the Jazz Foundation of America. His outspoken views on race relations, the Afro-American family, and education have led to positive changes in the American landscape. He is truly a man for all seasons and an immortal legend.

  • “Younger, well-established comics like Jerry Seinfeld have credited Cosby as an innovator both as a practitioner of the genre of standup comedy, but also as a person who paved the way for comics to break into sitcom television. Seinfeld said of Cosby: "He opened a door for all of us, for all of the networks to even consider that this was a way to create a character, was to take someone who can hold an audience just by being up there and telling their story. He created that. He created the whole idea of taking a quote-unquote 'comic' and developing a TV show just from a persona that you see onstage."Comedian Larry Wilmore also saw a connection between Cosby's standup, in the concert film Bill Cosby: Himself, and the later success of the The Cosby Show, saying: "It's clear that the concert is the template for The Cosby Show."”


  • Politicians

    Barack Obama

  • Other Interests

    theatre, philosophy, cinema

  • Music & Bands



Cosby married Camille Olivia Hanks on January 25, 1964. Together, they have had five children, Erika, Erinn, Ensa, Evin, and Ennis. The Cosbys have three grandchildren.

William H. Cosby - American - served as a cook in the U.S. Navy

Anna Cosby (d. 1991) - Amrican - a maid
Anna Cosby (d. 1991) - mother of William Henry Cosby

He is one of four sons of Anna Pearl (née Hite), a maid, and William Henry Cosby Sr., who served as a cook in the U.S. Navy.

Russell Cosby - American
Russell Cosby - brother of William Henry Cosby

Russell Cosby is Bill's younger brother

Robert Cosby

James Cosby (b. 1941, d. 1947, rheumatic fever)

Camille Olivia (Hanks) Cosby (m. 25-Jan-1964, five children) - American - television producer
Camille Olivia (Hanks) Cosby (m. 25-Jan-1964, five children) - Wife of William Henry Cosby

They had met on a blind date at a bowling alley in the spring of 1963. He was a 25-year-old comedian who was in the District of Columbia for a gig at the Shadows, a small club in the Georgetown neighbourhood. She was a teenage University of Maryland student.

The parents of Camille Hanks worried she was too young. But the couple, whose early dates often ended at Ben’s Chili Bowl, began a long-distance relationship when Cosby returned to New York. The next year, Camille dropped out of college and her parents reluctantly gave their blessing to their 19-year-old daughter’s marriage.

The ceremony, performed by Father Carl Dianda was held in a large multipurpose hall at a Catholic church in Olney, Maryland.

“They were well-matched,” Dianda, who had three premarital meetings in the rectory with the young couple, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “She was one of the most beautiful in that parish,” Dianda said, recalling that Cosby introduced himself to the priest by handing him one of his comedic records.

Erika Ranee (b. 1965) - American - Professor at New York University; Artist
Erika Ranee (b. 1965) - Daughter of William Henry Cosby

Erika Ranee Cosby is a contemporary American painter and an adjunct art professor at New York University. As the daughter of comedian Bill Cosby and Camille Hanks Cosby, she grew up in the media spotlight.

Erinn Charlene (b. 1967) - American - Ph.D. at Temple University.
Erinn Charlene (b. 1967) - Daughter of William Henry Cosby

Erinn who is a photographer has held exhibitions at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. and at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as part of the New York Film Festival in New York City.

Erinn, a former wild child, started drinking alcohol and smoking pot at boarding school. Bill Cosby demanded both seek treatment; Erinn was estranged from the family until her brother Ennis’ death in 1997. Now lives and works in Philadelphia and is pursuing a Ph.D. at Temple University.

Ennis William Cosby (b. 1969, d. 16-Jan-1997 murder) - American
Ennis William Cosby (b. 1969, d. 16-Jan-1997 murder) - Son of William Henry Cosby

Son, Ennis, was murdered in 1997. He was shot to death at age 27 during an attempted robbery on a Los Angeles freeway ramp as he tried to change a flat tire.


Ensa Camille (b. 1973) - American - actrees
Ensa Camille (b. 1973) - Daughter of William Henry Cosby

Evin Harrah (b. 1977) - American - business women
Evin Harrah (b. 1977) - Daughter of William Henry Cosby

Daughter Evin Harrah Cosby, a New York City boutique owner.