When people talk about African-American show biz pioneers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Sidney Poitier, and Hattie McDaniel, it's a bit surprising that Eddie "Rochester" Anderson's name doesn't come up a bit more often. Anderson was the first Black actor to land a regular spot on the prevailing media of the time, radio.
In 1937, Anderson played the role of a porter on The Jack Benny Program and the rest is history. He would later land the role of Benny's personal house man, Rochester. The cachet from this huge radio program would allow the actor and comedian to land subsequent television roles.
Anderson was born into a show business family in Oakland, CA, the son of a minstrel performer and a tightrope walker. While Anderson started performing at a young age, it was a job outside of show business that would affect his later life. Working as a newspaper salesman, he was in the habit of trying to shout as loud as possible to help his sales, and as a result, he injured his vocal cords. As a radio performer, he'd showcase a raw, sandpapery voice. We salute you, Rochester, on the day of your birth in 1905.