Whitman B. Mayo (November 15, 1930 – May 22, 2001) was an American actor best known for his character Grady Wilson on the 1970s NBC-TV series Sanford and Son.

Whitman Mayo
Whitman Mayo
Whitman Mayo appeared as Grady Wilson on "Sanford and Son".
Vital Information
Gender: Male
Born: November 15, 1930
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.
Died May 22, 2001 (aged 70)
Deathplace: Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. (heart attack)
Years active: 1966-1999
Family/Personal information
Character/series involvement
Appeared on/
Involved with:
Sanford and Son
Character(s) played: Grady Wilson
Sanford and Son retro Wiki Script


Early yearsEdit

Whitman was born in New York City, and grew up in Harlem and Queens, New York. At the age of seventeen he moved with his family to Southern California and from there entered the United States Army, serving from 1951 to 1953. Upon release, he studied at Chaffey College, Los Angeles City College, and UCLA. During this time he began acting in small parts, while waiting tables, working in the vineyards and as a probation officer as well as a variety of other small jobs. He also spent seven years as a counselor to delinquent boys.


In the late 1960s, while working for the New Lafayette Theater, Norman Lear offered Mayo a part as Grady Wilson on Sanford and Son. His portrayal of Grady Wilson caught on and he lasted through the entire duration of the show. He opened a travel agency in Inglewood, California. Mayo would late star in the unsuccessful spin-off, Grady, in which his character moved in with his daughter and her husband in Beverly Hills. After the cancellation of Grady after only ten episodes in 1976, Mayo and the Grady character returned to Sanford and Son, where they remained for the duration of the serie's run until its' cancellation by NBC in 1977. Mayo also reprised the role in the unsuccessful 1977 NBC-TV spinoff series Sanford Arms opposite actor Theodore Wilson, as well as for two episodes of Sanford, another NBC-TV Sanford and Son spinoff, this time opposite Redd Foxx and actor Dennis Burkley, in 1981.

Also in the late 1970s, Mayo appeared on the Los Angeles children's television program That's Cat, offering sage advice in a sweet manner to the main character, Alice.

In 1996, Late Night with Conan O'Brien spent several weeks trying to "find Grady," and have Mayo appear on the show. The show aired a mock episode of Unsolved Mysteries.[1] On February 8, 1996, Mayo finally appeared on Late Night, to much fanfare. [2][3][4] Whitman also played a role in the 1996 film The Cape as Sweets, the owner of Moonshot Bar and Grill.

Although best known for his television work, Mayo made several film appearances, including The Main Event with Barbra Streisand, D.C. Cab, Boyz n the Hood and Waterproof with Burt Reynolds. Mayo also appeared as Reverend Banyon on the Black Entertainment Television (BET) TV Movie Boycott in 2001 and in an episode of Martin. He also taught drama at Clark Atlanta University and hosted Liars and Legends on Turner South.

Personal lifeEdit

Whitman died of a heart attack at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital. He had resided in Atlanta's Historic Collier Heights community, since 1994 and was survived by his children and by his third wife, Gail Mayo.

His son, Rahn Mayo, is currently a member of the Georgia House of Representatives[5] representing House District 91. He is also survived by his daughters Tanya Mayo, Suni Mayo Simpson, and daughter Pangi Raysor and son Jon-Jo Raysor of Brooklyn, New York.[6]


  3. CONAN O'BRIEN, 2/8/96 - GRADY'S ARRIVAL - 4/5
  4. Contemporary Black Biography by Ashyia Henderson (Whitman Mayo) vol. 32, by Gale Group Publishing, Farmington Hills, MI, 2002, ISBN 0-7876-5913-4.
  6. Whitman Mayo, 'Sanford & Son's' Grady, dies at 70, CNN article, May 22, 2001, accessed 2008-01-21.

External iinksEdit