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Mumford died Sept. 6 in Silver Spring, Maryland, his cousin John Sims announced. A cause of death was not reported.
Mumford, who won an Emmy in 1973 for outstanding achievement in children’s programming for his work on The Electric Company and was nominated three other times, also wrote for an array of other programs, including Good Times, Roots: The Next Generation, The Cosby Show, Coach, Sesame Street, Clarissa Explains It All, Home Improvement, NYPD Blue and Blue’s Clues.
Mumford also was busy as a producer, guiding 34 episodes of M*A*S*H and working on many other shows.
Born in Washington, D.C., Mumford wanted to be an actor, but his mother warned him that there were “no parts” for black actors. He broke into show business in high school as a page for NBC affiliate WRC-TV and was inspired to write jokes after comic Joan Rivers made an appearance at the D.C. station.
Mumford frequented the offices of The Tonight Show to study up on sample monologues and began selling jokes to Johnny Carson and Rivers. He made a connection with the comedienne by approaching her head writer and receiving a topic sheet.
“I didn’t think there was a bubble or a glass ceiling on how far I could reach,” Mumford said last year in an interview for the Archive of American Television website. “I don’t think they’d ever seen anybody with my race and my balls.”
After attending Fordham University, Mumford landed a job as a writer on The Electric Company for PBS. In 1974, he moved to Los Angeles and wrote for Good Times, Doc, Maude and more.
Mumford became a staff writer on M*A*S*H after he penned the 1979 episode “Are You Now, Margaret?” with writing partner Dan Wilcox. He was hired by his producer on The Waverly Wonders, John Rappaport.
“As a guy who never wore a dress in public, I’d like to be remembered as somebody who did good work and work that is lasting and meaningful,” he said.
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