Cosby, Bill (William Henry Cosby, Jr.) kŏz´bē [key], 1937–, American actor and comedian, b. Philadelphia. He became known as a comedian and was subsequently the first African-American actor to star in a dramatic series on television ( I Spy, 1965–68). He has since starred in several television series, most notably the situation comedy The Cosby Show (1984–92), the most popular program on American television during the late 1980s. Cosby has won numerous Emmy awards and written several books, including Fatherhood (1986). He was inducted (1992) into the Television Hall of Fame, and six years later he was awarded a presidential medal. His reputation was tarnished by media reports (particularly in 2014 and 2015) of sexual assaults during his career, based on accusations from a number of women and his testimony in a 2005–6 deposition. In 2015 he initiated civil lawsuits against several of his accusers, and criminal charges in one case were also filed against him.
See biography by M. Whitaker (2014).