He was born the son of a car mechanic John Amos Sr. and his wife Annabelle in Newark. During his college years at Colorado State University, he played in the national team before he came as a professional for the American football team the Norfolk Neptunes in the late 1960s. Later he moved to acting and got the early 1970s through guest appearances on The Cosby Show, to supporting roles in popular TV series. This was followed by roles in several feature films, and television productions.
In the United States he is known primarily for his role in the sitcom Mary Tyler Moore and Good Times from the 1970s. Major film productions in which he starred, Coming to America, Beastmaster are - The Liberator, and Die Hard 2
For his achievements in television series such as Mary Tyler Moore and Roots, he won a large number of awards.