Demond Wilson: From Sandford & Son To Saving Souls
Demond Wilson, better known as Redd Foxx’s son on NBC’s Sanford and Son (1972-77) grew up in Harlem, New York. At the age of 12, Wilson’s appendix ruptured, almost killing him. At that time the young Wilson vowed to somehow serve God as an adult in some ministry capacity.
Years later, Demond, 70, did just that and is now an evangelist.
Since he was ordained as an interdenominational preacher in 1985, Wilson has been on the gospel circuit nonstop. When he appears at large auditoriums, his entourage includes a secretary, two bodyguards, another evangelist, a five-piece band and as many as eight singers. “It looks like Ringling Bros, when we come to a place,” says Wilson, who has preached to as many as 6,000 people.
During the hight of his career in Hollywood, Wilson was making upwards of 40,000 a week, but he also had a $1,000-a-week cocaine habit and a rocky marriage to Cicely Johnston, a stewardess turned model. Recalls Wilson: “All Satan had to do was say, ‘Go commit adultery,’ and I’d say, ‘With whom?'”
In May 1982 Wilson experienced his spiritual epiphany, which came, of all places, on his tennis court. He was waiting for guests who never showed. His wife was in the hospital. His closest neighbors lived half a mile away. In the midst of all his wealth, Wilson felt totally alone. “Lord Jesus,” he prayed, “if you put my family back together, if you give me my mind back, I’ll turn it around.” Over the next six months Wilson became obsessed with his newfound beliefs. He lost 35 pounds and eventually found peace. After immersing himself in the Bible and ministerial counseling, he became an evangelist. “The old Demond Wilson is dead,” Wilson proclaimed.
When asked about his upbringing, Wilson turns his attention to his parents. “They were in the iron and steel business,” he explained. “My mother would iron and my father would steal.” Actually his mother was once a dietitian and his father was a tailor. Born in Valdosta, Ga., Wilson grew up in New York City, where he studied tap dance and ballet. He made his Broadway debut at 4 and danced at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater at 12. Raised as a Catholic…