William Henry “Bill” Cosby was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 12, 1937. Cosby dropped out of high school to become a medic in the Navy, obtaining his diploma while in the service. Upon becoming a civilian, he entered Temple University, where he played football and worked evenings as a bartender.
While working as a bartender, Cosby began to entertain the customers with his comedy routines and, encouraged by his success, left Temple in 1962 to pursue a career in show business. He began by playing small clubs around Philadelphia and in New York's Greenwich Village. Within two years he was playing the top nightclubs around the country and making television appearances with Johnny Carson (also acting as guest host), Jack Paar, and Andy Williams. Cosby became the first black to star in a prime-time television series. I Spy ran from 1965 to 1968 and won Cosby three Emmy Awards.
In the 1970s Cosby appeared regularly in nightclubs in Las Vegas, Tahoe, and Reno, and did commercials for such sponsors as Jell-O, Del Monte, and Ford Motor Company. From 1969 until 1972 he had his own television series, The Bill Cosby Show. During the early 1970s he developed and contributed vocals to the Saturday morning children's show Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. He appeared in such films as Uptown Saturday Night (1974), Let's Do It Again (1975), A Piece of the Action (1977), and the award-winning television movie To All My Friends on Shore. During this time he also earned a master's degree and a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts.
Cosby was star and creator of the consistently top-rated The Cosby Show from 1985 to 1992, author of two best-selling books, Fatherhood (1986) and Time Flies (1987), and a performer at the top venues in Las Vegas, where he earned $500,000 a week. He also won top fees as a commercial spokesperson for Jell-O, Kodak, and Coca-Cola. He returned to television in 1996 in the series The Cosby Mysteries and he joined again with Phyli-cia Rashad in the comedy sitcom Cosby.
While contending with personal issues such as the loss of his son in 1997 and a false paternity suit, Cosby has continued to be active in social and political issues regarding the African American community. The Cosby family made headlines when they donated $20 million to Spelman College in Atlanta. In 2000 Cosby addressed the education system with the book American Schools: The $100 Billion Challenge. Cosby has received numerous awards for his contributions, including the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2003 and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2009.
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1937- ♦ US comedian Born in North Philadelphia, he served in the US navy (1956-60) and later studied at Temple University, Philadelphia, on a track-a