(Apr. 11, 1947-June 28, 2014). Meshach Taylor was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of the first dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Iupui Joseph T. Taylor and former Indianapolis Public Schools teacher Hertha Mae Ward Taylor. He was raised in New Orleans before moving to Indianapolis with his family.

Two boys enact a scene from a play. One boy holds a ball on a table while the other covers his eyes with one hand and touches the ball with the other.
Lodia Richards and Meshach Taylor rehearsing a scene from the Junior Class Play, “Its Great to be Crazy,” 1963 Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source

Taylor graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in 1964. He then studied acting in the dramatic arts program at Wilmington College in Ohio and Florida A&M University. He left Florida A&M to take a job in Indianapolis as a State House political reporter for Wife-Am (now Wtlc). He also hosted a community affairs program at television station WLWI (now Wthr) and appeared in repertory theater productions.

His first professional acting job was in a national tour of Hair in 1969. In 1977, Taylor moved to Los Angeles. There, he found bit roles in a few popular horror films before being cast as Anthony Bouvier, his most memorable role, on the long-running CBS comedy series Designing Women. He portrayed the beleaguered male foil to four dazzling Southern-styled women. Originally a guest part, Taylor’s popularity with audiences earned him a regular role on the show, which aired from 1986 to 1993. In 1989, he earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

Two men in tuxedos stand next to each other.
Meshach Taylor (left) at the Emmy Awards, 1989 Credit: Alan Light via Wikimedia Commons View Source

Taylor finally received his bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from Florida A&M in May 1993. Between 1993 and 1997, he portrayed plastic surgeon Sheldon Baylor as a series regular on Dave’s World. In 1998, he made his Broadway debut as Lumière in Beauty and the Beast, alongside singer Toni Braxton, and won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Jim in the WTTW-Chicago production of Huckleberry Finn.

From 1996 to 2008, Taylor hosted shows for cable television channels HGTV, the Travel Channel, and Retirement TV. He had a brief stint as host of the iconic television game show To Tell the Truth in 2000 and was a regular on Nickelodeon sitcom Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide from 2004 to 2007.

Diagnosed with colorectal cancer, Taylor returned to Indianapolis to celebrate his mother’s 100th birthday one week before succumbing to his illness.

Revised June 2022

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