Matt Robinson played the original Gordon on Sesame Street. The actor debuted the role of the friendly neighbor married to Susan (Loretta Long) in the first episode of the PBS children’s series in 1969 and remained a resident of 123 Sesame Street until 1972, before being replaced by Hal Miller and then Roscoe Orman.
Robinson also created and voiced the Muppet character, Roosevelt Franklin, on the beloved kiddie show. The actor was determined for his character to speak in what he described as “Black English.” Robinson’s character ultimately scored his own recurring segment, “Roosevelt Franklin Elementary School,” per the New York Post.
Robinson, the real-life father of actress Holly Robinson-Peete, went on to write for the popular 1970s TV shows Sanford and Son, The Waltons, Eight is Enough, The Jeffersons, and later, The Cosby Show. He was also a successful producer, per IMDB.
Matt Robinson Died in 2002 After a 20-Year Battle With Parkinson’s Disease
Robinson fought a 20-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. The Philadelphia-born actor, writer, and producer joined the writing team for Bill Cosby’s hit sitcom in 1983, but the effects of Parkinson’s sometimes made it difficult for him to work. Despite his setbacks, he was still able to remain on the NBC hit for seven seasons.
Interestingly, for his final writing role, Robinson went back to his children’s television roots as a writer for the Nickelodeon show Blue’s Clues in 1999, per IMDB.
he died August 5, 2002, at his Los Angeles home at age 65, according to his New York Times obituary.
Robinson’s Daughter Started a Foundation in His Honor
Four years after Robinson’s death, his daughter Holly Robinson-Peete and her husband, former NFL star Rodney Peete, started the Holly Rod Foundation in honor of the actress’s father. In an interview with Ability magazine, the former 21 Jump Street star revealed that when her father’s illness forced him to stop working altogether, she and her husband supported him. She also talked about her dad’s successful television career and how he worked as long as he was able.
“My father was an amazing writer,” she said. “He originated the part of Gordon on Sesame Street, and went on to write and produce The Cosby Show for the whole run of the show. He had such an amazing career, and Parkinson’s disease got him at 46, very young.”
Robinson-Peete revealed that her dad got sick when she was in college and that as his illness became more debilitating it became difficult for him to do anything. She added that she felt blessed that she was able to care for her dad in his final years.
“He came down with it around the time when the Internet was just getting started. Information wasn’t as readily available as it is now,” she said. “He did have some stem cells implanted in his brain and they really did help alleviate some of his symptoms, but he was too far into the disease, too debilitated to really benefit from some of the treatments. …There’s a lot more available now, and sadly he’s not here to reap the benefits.”
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