It would be easy to put Maude Findlay’s former maid, Florida Evans, on the Classic TV Moms list simply because her three kids made it to adulthood while living in Chicago’s South Side projects. Ain’t much movin’ on up going on in that ‘hood, where survival is success.
But what we like most about Esther Rolle’s twice spun-off character–she started on All in the Family, shifted to Maude and finally wound up on Good Times–is the joy she put into keeping her family’s head above water.
Florida made sure her two sons–the wacky, flamboyant J.J. (Jimmie “Dy-no-mite!” Walker) and Michael (Ralph Carter)–stayed on the straight and narrow. She prepped her daughter, Thelma (BerNadette Stanis), for marriage to a millionaire running back, and she dealt with the “death” of husband James Sr. (actor John Amos split midway through the series). All the while, she made the times look good.
And Rolle looked out for Walker in real life. The actress boycotted the hit series for a year to protest J.J.’s clownish, “jive-talking” portrayal. Risking your own stardom to do the right thing for your kid: Now, that’s one dy-no-mite mom.
Years on Air: 1974-1979