William Henry Cosby, Jr

portrait of Bill Cosby
Publicity still by William Morris Agency (1969)
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Born: 12 July 1937, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

One of four children of a Navy cook, Cosby excelled at sports and coasted in class. He described himself as the "class clown". He failed tenth grade and apprenticed at a shoe-repair shop, then worked in a muffler shop before joining the Navy. He was trained as a corpsman and specialized in physical therapy, spending most of his four years working with soldiers seriously injured in Korea. While in the Navy he got his high school diploma by correspondence. He was given a track scholarship at Temple University at Pittsburgh. Working as a bartender to pay school bills he learned that snappy patter behind the bar led to good tips, and soon was doing standup comedy. He left school to pursue a performing career, first around Philadelphia but then at New York City and others. He came to national attention in a 1963 appearance on The Tonight Show, followed by a number of comedy albums, starting with "Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow ... Right!". In 1965 he co-starred with Robert Culp in I Spy, the first black with a starring role in television. He married Camille Hanks in 1964, they had five children. He received his MA from the University of Massachusetts in 1972, followed by an Ed. D. four years later, also from UMass. Temple University later granted him his bachelor's degree based on his "life experience", and he has received at least ten honorary doctorates. There were several iterations of The Cosby Show and he produced several educational television shows. In fact, his doctoral dissertation was based on the use of "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids", a Saturday-morning children's show he produced based on his own childhood. Cosby was in demand as a comedian, more recently speaking on themes based on his best-selling book Fatherhood. He was criticized for not addressing "black themes" in his television work but felt that appearing as an equal with white stars was more beneficial. He has taken the black community to task for a failure in parenting, with harsh comments about language use and personal responsibility.

Biography from Wikipedia and Naval History

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