Student Work – Carl Gordon

Carl Gordon by Gayle Roberts

Carl Gordon, the actor passed away at the age of 78, on July 20, 2010.  One of his most famous and well-known works was his character role as “Pop” Emerson on the 1900s hit sitcom Roc.  It was reported that his death was caused by non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cancer.  He was at home when he passed away, in Jetersville, Virginia.  Mr. Carl Gordon was born, Rufus Carl Gordon Jr. in Goochland, Virginia.  His parents relocated to Bedford Stuyvesant, New York, where he was raised.  Carl Gordon had been married three times.  His third wife, Jacqueline Alston-Gordon, survived him, along with his six children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Carl was a mechanic in the Air Force during the Korean War.  While he was in the Air Force he learned a trade as a sheet metal worker.  After Mr. Gordon was discharged from the Air Force, he attended Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York for a few years.  In order to secure employment, he quit school before obtaining his degree.  Fortunately, he was able to fall back on the sheet metal skills learned in the armed forces, but it did not help generate the type of financial security he wanted.  Nevertheless, he began a humble lifestyle by working as a sheet metal worker, and as a department store stockroom clerk, among other occupations.  While nearing the age of 40, Carl was dissatisfied with the way his life was going, with two divorces and a lowly income, he sought greater aspirations for his future.  Whenever he was interviewed he would recant the story that literally changed his life.  He recalled, saying “I turned to God for guidance,”…“I cried out to the Lord for help.” As he told it, the Lord gave him a message to “try acting.”  It seemed utterly ridiculous to him, but he was obedient to the Lord, and tried acting.

As it turned out, that was the best career decision he ever made.  And, it paid off, because he became a great actor.  Mr. Gordon was unique in his own rite because he did not pursue his quest in the world of acting until his late 30s.  He was a late blooming bud.  Mr. Gordon had the tenacity to forge forward, and thus enrolled in an acting workshop, where he was the eldest, the only black, and the only one in the workshop who did not have a college degree.  His career emerged into one of success, both on the Broadway stage and off.  Mr. Gordon choose his roles carefully, such as not to depict his race in a derogatory manner.  He was quoted as saying “I won’t do anything that’s derogatory to my race or involves a lot of profanity.”  His acting credits included various television episodes, such as his infamous role in Roc, during 1990s, he also appeared on many television shows including Law and Order, The Practice, and ER, to name a few.  His Broadway stage credits included: “A Brother from Another Planet,” “Aint Supposed to Die a Natural Death,” and a revival of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and “The Piano Lesson.”  He also had a starring role in the TV adaption of the Piano Lesson.  Mr. Gordon was also a humanitarian.  He devoted his time and money by supporting Black Theatre of Arts in Virginia, and he also sat on the Board of Directors that helps women who are released from prison.

The research did not reveal if Mr. Gordon had a will, or the estimated size of his estate.  Nor did the research mention any siblings.  Considering the descendant’s immediate family genealogy, the probate attorney, and/or executor/executrix might have their work cut out for them if he did not prepare a valid will.  A valid could alleviate time, money and antagonistic feelings amongst the family and any, business(es), or charities he planned on sharing his estate with upon his demise.


Ellen Robertson, Actor Carl Gordon dies at 78, Timesdispatch (July 26, 2010),

Jackie Jones, Late Blooming Actor Carl Gordon Dead at 78, Georgetown (July 26, 2010),


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