Cosby, Bill (William Henry Cosby, Jr.)kŏzˈbē, 1937–, American actor, b. Philadelphia. He became known as a comedian and was subsequently the first African-American actor to star in a dramatic series on television ( I Spy, 1965–68). He has since starred in several television series, most notably the situation comedy The Cosby Show (1984–92), the most popular program on American television during the late 1980s. Cosby has won numerous Emmy awards and written several books, including Fatherhood (1986). He was inducted (1992) into the Television Hall of Fame, and six years later he was awarded a presidential medal.