The Wealthiest Black TV Characters of All Time

Image: NBC/Fox (YouTube)

Was Jefferson Cleaners’ seven locations worth more than Cliff Huxtable’s basement OB/GYN practice? Would Whitley Gilbert qualify for a Pell Grant? Was Flavor Magazine struggling so badly that Khadijah James needed two roommates?

These are the arguments that can ensue when the staff at The Root gets a break from the unending meetings we are required to attend as we advance the various causes we are accused of promoting—including anti-white rhetoric, the gay agenda, and the Popeye’s Chicken Mandate.

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So, during our downtime, we came up with a list of the wealthiest Black television characters of all time. Our requirements were as follows:

  • Main characters only: We didn’t include ancillary characters like celebrated attorney Jackie Chiles, who ran a successful law practice on Seinfeld.
  • No one-hit wonders: The show had to last for at least two seasons, which excluded entrepreneurs like the Ivy League-educated Frank Parrish, who inherited a restaurant on Frank’s Place. 
  • No dirty money: This has nothing to do with our morals or ethics. We made this decision because we couldn’t decide if Avon Barksdale moved more weight in West Baltimore than James “Ghost” St. Patrick in New York. Or did Franklin Saint have them all beat? He got his bricks from the U.S. government for the low-low, but we don’t know anything about that.*
    *We only used the value of their legal businesses and property
  • We used 2019 dollars: Our figures for shows more than 20 years old were adjusted for inflation. We also used salaries from Payscale.com and real estate estimates from Zillow.
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Here is the list:

20. Deacon Ernest Frye

TV Show: Amen
Estimated Net Worth: $2.5 million

We know him as a slick Head Deacon who’s trying to get his daughter married but we can’t forget that Ernest was an ambulance-chasing civil attorney who eventually became a judge. Pretty good for someone who finished last in his law school class.

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This is what you can achieve if you pay your tithes.

19. Dre and Rainbow Johnson

TV Show: Black-ish
Estimated Net Worth: $3.8 million

They’re technically upper middle class and their kids eat up a lot of their money, but they make a good living as an advertising executive and anesthesiologist. They would probably be higher on the list but Cal U college tuition is kicking their ass and Zoey doesn’t qualify for Pell grants.

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18. “Black” Mariah Dillard and Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes

TV Show: Luke Cage
Estimated Net Worth: $4.2 million

Cornell ran a nightclub and records show he had a shell corporation that sold arms. He probably would have made a lot more money if he wasn’t preoccupied with Luke Cage and paid more attention to his cousin Mariah, who eventually ran Harlem’s Paradise into the ground and then sold it to Luke Cage for pennies on the dollar.

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You gotta invest.

17. Trudy Proud

TV Show: The Proud Family
Estimated Net Worth: $4.8 million

Trudy owned her own veterinary practice and was born into a wealthy family. They lived around a lot of white people and you’d be surprised how much white people spend on their pets. Plus, we used to date back in high school but after Oscar won that spelling bee, she dropped me like a hot biscuit.

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I still think about her sometimes.

Call me, Trudy!

16. Jonathan Rollins

TV Show: L.A. Law
Estimated Net Worth: $5.8 million

Blair Underwood plays a smooth-talking character with a good job in every television role. He never plays an out-of-work car mechanic. On L.A. Law, Jonathan Rollins Esq. rose from a lowly associate without any hair moisture to partner at the high-powered law firm, McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak, with the help of a hot oil treatment. He also tried to holla at Will Smith’s wife but she was too hood.

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Or maybe he couldn’t set it off.

15. Dwayne and Whitley GIlbert-Wayne

TV Show: A Different World
Estimated Net Worth: $7 million

Whitley’s family was so wealthy that they had a dorm named after them. Dwayne has that great job at Kineshewa developing video games. I never see them at homecoming so I guess they’re still in Japan.

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I hope he’s not still wearing those same glasses.

14. Cliff and Claire Huxtable

TV Show: The Cosby Show.
Estimated Net Worth: $7.8 million

Upper-middle-class careers in medicine and law are where the Huxtables made most of their money but their real net worth comes was holding on to that Brooklyn Heights brownstone. It’s worth at least $5 million now. Plus they got a lot of tax breaks from Cliff running his OB/GYN business out of the basement.

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I will not make a joke about that.

13. James “Ghost” St. Patrick

TV Show: Power
Estimated Net Worth: $8 million

Ghost owns parking lots, laundromats and an always-packed nightclub. The club business seems to be very profitable because he has a huge penthouse apartment, wears expensive clothes and apparently employs a full-time person to attend to his waves.

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I’ve heard rumors that he sells drugs but you know how haters won’t give a successful black man his due.

12. Olivia Pope

TV Show: Scandal
Estimated Net Worth: $8.5 million

Accumulating more than $1 million dollars in designer coats alone, Olivia runs one of the most successful crisis management/PR firms in America. She also worked as White House Communications Director and demands a hefty fee on the speaking circuit.

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11. Tasha Mack

TV Show: The Game
Estimated Net Worth: $8.7 million

Tasha Mack ran a pretty successful sports agency and made a lot of money after she merged with the much larger ISM. She chose a dude named Pookie over NBA veteran Rick Fox, which could have doubled her net worth.

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I think she’s a regular on the Not-So-Real Housewives of the NFL now.

10. The Evans Family

TV Show: Good Times
Estimated Net Worth: $8.9 million

JJ earned a lot of loot in licensing fees after they turned his DynoWoman comic book into a movie but most of the Evans family money comes from Keith’s revitalized football career and Michael’s work as a civil rights attorney.

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I think Penny did pretty well for herself with a singing career, too, but we didn’t include her money.

9. Mary Jane Paul

TV Show: Being Mary Jane
Estimated Net Worth: $10.2 million

Great Day USA probably doesn’t pay as much as CBS This Morning, and she hasn’t been a network anchor very long, so Mary Jane probably hasn’t yet reached Gayle King status, who’s worth about $30 million.

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Plus, MJ spent a lot of money on that wedding.

8. Phillip and Vivian and Vivian Banks

TV Show: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Estimated Net Worth: $12-$15 million

Most of the Banks’ net worth comes from the sprawling Bel Air mansion with a guest house. Although Phillip is quite a successful judge, he made most of his money as a senior partner at Firth Wynn and Meyer. (I was today years old when I realized that Phil’s law firm name was an Earth, Wind and Fire joke). Dark-skinned Aunt Vivian earned her Ph.D. before she was murdered in a fit of rage about low wages by Geoffrey, who kept everyone quiet by blackmailing them with secrets he had learned during his tenure as the butler.

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He could’ve found a better look-alike to play Uncle Phil’s wife, though.

7. The Greenleafs

TV Show: Greenleaf
Estimated Net Worth: $17 million

Ain’t no money like offering plate money because tax-free money don’t stop. Greenleaf World Ministries is technically a nonprofit religious organization with a megachurch, a school, and a record label. But everyone knows that Jesus needs his servants to drive fancy cars and wear nice clothes. We also figured in Mavis’ net worth from her nightclub, even though she’s clearly a heathen who doesn’t have the Holy Ghost.

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6. Charley Bordelon West

TV Show: Queen Sugar
Estimated Net Worth: $21 million

Not only did she own a successful sports management firm, but Charley West also inherited a struggling sugar farm. Even if the family plantation fails, land in Louisiana is worth $13,000 per acre, so she’ll never go broke.

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And please don’t forget all the money she got in the divorce.

5. George and Louise Jefferson

TV Show: The Jeffersons
Estimated Net Worth: $22 million

Did you know that dry cleaning franchises produce more millionaires than any other kind of franchise? How the hell do you think they got that deee-luxe apartment in the sky-hi-hi? Not only does George own a successful chain of dry cleaners (“Seven locations, one near you”), but Weezy finds time to give back to the community by volunteering at the Help Center.

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(Sherman Helmsley is the only actor on the list twice.)

4. Arnold and Willis Drummond

TV Show: Diff’rent Strokes
Estimated Net Worth: $25-30 million

We decided to include Arnold and Willis even though I’m pretty sure Phillip Drummond was the head of an international drug cartel. Seriously, how do you think he got enough money to buy two black kids? Oh, you still believe that bullshit story about Arnold and Willis’ mother dying and leaving her kids to the white man whose house she cleaned? Come on, man!

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Plus, no one ever knew exactly what Mr. Drummond did. We looked it up and the producers would only say that he was president of the powerful mega-firm, Trans Allied, Inc. That doesn’t even sound real but white folks will believe anything.

It’s obvious that Phillip was pushing weight but he’s dead now and Arnold and Willis didn’t have anything to do with that.

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3. Gustavo Fring

TV Show: Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul
Estimated Net Worth: $30-$50 million

As the owner of 14 Los Pollos Hermanos locations, Gustavo Fring is an immigrant success story. Although there are no figures available for Mr. Fring, El Pollo Loco requires that an owner have a net worth of $1.5 million to open a franchise. Other than hanging out with a former chemistry teacher and spending time at his commercial laundry service, Gus seems to keep to himself and focus on chicken.

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I guess that’s how you make the big bucks.

2. Lucious and Cookie Lyon

TV Show: Empire
Estimated Net Worth: $300-$500 million

While Cash Money Records briefly took over during the ‘99 and the 2000s, as CEOs of Empire Entertainment (NYSE: EMPE), Lucious and Cookie Lyon eventually earned the crown as owners of one of the most successful hip- hop labels in America. While the group has enjoyed unprecedented success, The Root has learned that the company may be under investigation for tax evasion, which may have something to do with Lucious Lyon’s belief that one plus one doesn’t necessarily equal two.

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1. Dominique Deveraux

TV Show: Dynasty/The Colbys
Estimated Net Worth: $500-$600 million

When Diahann Carroll recently passed away, I was disappointed that no one mentioned the fact that Dominique Deveraux was one of the first black people in television history to openly stunt on white folk. After her platinum-selling album career ended, she became a music mogul and owned a hotel chain. She was Beyonce AND Jay-Z. She was Oprah and P. Diddy.

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Yes, the wealthiest fictional character on television was a black woman.

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About the author

Michael Harriot

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.