This is one of those obits that wouldn't mean a whole lot to the average person. CNN apparently thought so as they buried the story. For a classic tv person like myself, it was a grim discovery. Mike Evans, best known as Lionel Jefferson, died from throat cancer at the age of 57. He actually passed December 14th and they're just now getting around to announcing it.
I didn't follow the behind-the-scenes activities of tv shows back then like I do today. For that reason, I never did know why he got replaced on "The Jeffersons". Mike was the first Lionel on the show for four seasons then was replaced by Damon Evans (no relation). That cat was TERRIBLE as Lionel. They finally realized their error and the original Lionel returned from 1979 to 1981.
Mom first brought his passing to my attention and even I was confused at first. I sometimes forgot who was the first Lionel on the series. No offense to Damon and his lack of acting ability but as far as I'm concerned, Mike was the only Lionel that mattered.
I didn't even realize this until just recently but I guess he also co-created and wrote "Good Times". That's pretty interesting considering that one of the characters on that show was actually named Michael Evans. So Mike essentially had a hand in making two of the VERY few Black sitcoms that were around at the time fun to watch. Rest in peace, Lionel.