Dead, Gary Wayne Coleman on May 28, 2010, at the age of 42, he was an American actor, voice artist, and comedian, best known for his role as Arnold Jackson in Diff’rent Strokes (1978–1986) and for his small stature as an adult.
Born Gary Wayne Coleman in Illinois, outside Chicago, on February 8, 1968, he was adopted by W. G. Coleman, a fork-lift operator, and Edmonia Sue, a nurse practitioner.
He suffered from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, an autoimmune kidney disease.
Because of his chronic illness, combined with the corticosteroids and other medications used to treat it, his growth was limited to 4 ft 8 in (1.42 m), and his face retained a childlike appearance well into adulthood.
Coleman was cast in the role of Arnold Jackson in Diff’rent Strokes, portraying one of two black brothers from Harlem adopted by a wealthy white widower in Manhattan.
The series was broadcast from 1978 to 1986.
A Biography Channel documentary estimated he was left with a quarter of the original amount after paying his parents, advisers, lawyers, and taxes. He later successfully sued his parents and his former advisers for misappropriation of his finances and was awarded $1.3 million.
In 1998, Coleman was charged with assault while he was working as a security guard.
Tracy Fields, a Los Angeles bus driver and fan of Coleman’s work on Diff’rent Strokes, approached him and requested his autograph while he was shopping for a bulletproof vest in a California mall.
Coleman refused to give her an autograph, an argument ensued, and Fields reportedly mocked Coleman’s lackluster career as an actor.
Coleman punched Fields in the face several times in front of witnesses.
He was arrested and later testified in court that she threatened him and he defended himself. “She wouldn’t leave me alone. I was getting scared, and she was getting ugly,” he said.
Coleman pleaded no contest to one count of assault, received a suspended jail sentence, and was ordered to pay Fields’ $1,665 hospital bill, as well as take anger management classes.
He also had many disorderly conduct and reckless driving charges brought up against him at various times. He would admit that the tally of his life problems led to more than a few feigned suicide attempts.
In 2005, Coleman moved from Los Angeles to Santaquin, a small town about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City, Utah, where he lived for the remainder of his life.
In early 2007 he met Shannon Price, 22, on the set of the film Church Ball, where she was working as an extra. Price and Coleman married several months later.
On May 1 and 2, 2008, they made a well-publicized appearance on the show Divorce Court to air their differences in an attempt to save their marriage.
Nevertheless, they divorced in August 2008, citing irreconcilable differences and Coleman was granted an restraining order against Price to prevent her from living in his home when he was hospitalized after their divorce.
According to a court petition later filed by Price, she and Coleman continued to live together in a common law marriage until his death.