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Person Profile

Edmund Lincoln Anderson

Oakland, California
San Francisco, California
Los Angeles, California

Merlene Davis

Early Years

Edmund Lincoln Anderson was born in Oakland, California, to Edward and Ella Mae Anderson. His father was a minstrel performer and his mother was a circus tightrope walker whose career ended after a fall. The family moved to San Francisco when Edmund was ten years old. He found work hawking newspapers and as an errand runner for an architecture firm to help his family financially. At fourteen, he quit school, working for the firm during the day and with his brother in an all African American vaudeville revue at night. 1

Show Business

After several years of eking out a living on the vaudeville circuit, Anderson began to star in Black films, making a name for himself. On March 28, 1937 he got a one-time bit part on comedian Jack Benny’s radio show. Eventually he was hired as Benny’s valet and butler, Rochester van Jones, becoming one of the first African Americans to have a regular role on a nationwide radio program.2

In 1942, Anderson was earning about $100,000 a year which he invested well and, by 1962, was listed as one of the top one-hundred wealthiest Black people by Ebony Magazine.3

Despite his wealth and fame, Anderson was not always welcomed in hotels where all the other cast members were staying. If the hotel workers could not be convinced to let Anderson stay, the entire crew of forty-four people packed up and left.4

Horse Owner and Trainer

In 1941, Anderson bought four yearlings, one of which was Burnt Cork, for $2,600 at the Saratoga Yearling Sales in New York. The colt was Kentucky-bred and, as a two-year and three-year old, had won enough races to qualify for the 1943 Kentucky Derby. Anderson insisted on entering the colt in the Derby although it was a long-shot at best and some critics said Anderson wanted the publicity.

Anderson and his wife couldn’t attend the Derby because of segregation. They stayed at the home of well-known Kentucky politician Mae Street Kidd, where they watched the race. Burnt Cork, named for one method used to create blackface makeup, finished last in a field of ten. Nevertheless, Anderson became the fourth third Black Thoroughbred owner to have a horse run in the Derby.5   

After retirement, Anderson became a trainer working at Hollywood Park Racetrack in California, where he had a stable of horses. One of his race horses, Up and Over, was injured in a fall and the recommendation was euthanasia. Anderson refused. He worked with a veterinary surgeon to get Up and Over back on his feet.6

Family Life

Anderson married Mamie Wiggins in 1939. He adopted his wife’s son, Billy, who became a National Football League player. She died in 1954. Two years later he married Evangela ‘Eva’ Simon.  The couple had two daughters and a son before divorcing in 1973.


Anderson died in 1977. His son, Eddie, Jr., followed his father’s request to convert his mansion into a treatment center offering mental health and substance abuse services. It is now a bed-and-breakfast.7

Anderson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Radio and was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2001.


Notable Kentucky African Americans Database. “Allen, Dudley · Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.

Notable Kentucky African Americans Database. “Burnt Cork in Kentucky Derby, 1943 · Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.” “(8) Happy Dead Person Of The Day – Posts | Facebook.”

IMDb. “Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson.”

Humanities, National Endowment for the. “Burnt Cork, Montsin Share in Chicago Turf Laurels.” The Sunday Star. September 6, 1942.

“Mother of ‘Rochester’ Comedian, Dies.” Evening Star. July 19, 1948.

“Negroes Play Large Part In Racing Meet,” The Michigan Chronicle. August 7, 1943.

Kelly, Kate. “Eddie Anderson (1905-1977): Created Role of Rochester.” America Comes Alive, February 6, 2014.

Dokosi, Michael Eli . “From a Newspaper Seller to Highest-Paid Black Actor in Hollywood, the Story of Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson.” Face2Face Africa.

Harris, Ned and Joy. “Eddie Anderson.” RUSC Old Time Radio.

Portland Challenger.  May, 5, 1952.

Brown, Razz. “Clatter of Hoofs.” Detroit Tribune, August 23, 1941.

Brown, Razz. “Clatter of Hoofs.” The Detroit Tribune. August 30, 1941.

The Daytona Beach Morning Journal. “Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, 71, Dies. March 1, 1977.,15451&dq=eddie+anderson&hl=en.


When citing this article as a source in Chicago Manual of Style use this format: Last Name

first name of Author, Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry, n.d.“Title of Profile

or Story.” International Museum of the Horse. Accessed date. URL of page cited.

  • 1Harris, Ned and Joy. “Eddie Anderson.” RUSC Old Time Radio.
  • 2Harris, Ned and Joy. “Eddie Anderson.” RUSC Old Time Radio.
  • 3Harris, Ned and Joy. “Eddie Anderson.” RUSC Old Time Radio.
  • 4Harris, Ned and Joy. “Eddie Anderson.” RUSC Old Time Radio.
  • 5Kelly, Kate. “Eddie Anderson (1905-1977): Created Role of Rochester.” America Comes Alive, February 6, 2014.
  • 6Harris, Ned and Joy. “Eddie Anderson.” RUSC Old Time Radio.
  • 7Kate Kelly, Kate. “Eddie Anderson (1905-1977): Created Role of Rochester.” America Comes Alive, February 6, 2014.