Esther Rolle was born Nov. 8, 1920 in Pompano Beach, Fla., the 10th child in a family of 18. She graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta in 1942, and honed her acting chops as a member of the critically acclaimed theater group the Negro Ensemble Company. She received acclaim for her performances in Blues for Mister Charlie, The Amen Corner, A Raisin in the Sun and A Member of the Wedding. It was in one such production that Norman Lear noticed her immense talent and cast her as the feisty maid Florida in the sitcom Maude
Good Times debuted in 1974 and was immediate hit. The series was also notable for being the first prime-time show to feature a nuclear black family and a strong black father figure, something Rolle had insisted upon. But as the show's ratings continued to rise, Good Times began to stumble in social responsibility. Increasingly the show began to focus on the woman-chasing and often decidedly shady schemes of the J.J. character.
Critics of the time were disapproving of the direction of the show and so was Rolle. She tried to pressure the producers to make significant changes and even boycotted the series for one season. Eventually she returned to the show that made her a household name, but Good Times was canceled in 1979. The end of her series, however, was certainly not the end of her career.
Rolle went on to perform in numerous television series and specials, and won an Emmy Award for her outstanding performance in the TV film Summer of My German Soldier, and several other awards including multiple NAACP Image Awards. On the big screen, Rolle appeared in Driving Miss Daisy (1990), Rosewood (1997) and Down in the Delta. Rolle struggled with diabetes for many years, and complications from the disease claimed her life on Nov. 17, 1998. She was 78.
Florida Evans is married to her childhood sweetheart and the love of her life, James Evans. A stay-at-home mother, she's the super-glue that keeps the Evans family together. With a stern but loving disposition, Florida does her best to emotionally support her often out-of-work husband and be a good parent and role model for their three children. Between the cooking, the cleaning and the disciplining, Florida often squeezes in a part-time job to help stretch the family budget further. But family and financial challenges aside, Florida is the quintessential hostess and possessed of a generous spirit. She is known to throw a good party and doesn't hesitate to offer whatever she has to those in need. Not only is Florida the superwoman of the Evans household, but for many, including her good friend and neighbor Willona, she's the superhero of her housing project on the south side of Chicago.