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Jo Marie Payton-Downs (formerly Payton-France, Payton-Noble; born August 3, 1950) is an American television actress and singer who starred as Harriette Winslow, the matriarch of the Winslow family on the ABC/CBS sitcom Family Matters, and also appeared in a recurring role on its parent series Perfect Strangers.


Jo Marie Payton was born on August 3, 1950, in Albany, Georgia. In later years, her family moved to Opa-locka, Florida and she completed high school at North Dade Jr./ Sr. High School in Bunche Park, Florida and Miami Carol City Senior High School in Dade County, Florida. She graduated from Albany State University in Albany, Georgia and continued to donate, host charitable events, and support her alma mater while also continuing her education and making a successful career.

From 1989 to 1997, Payton won over television audiences as Harriette Winslow, a wife and mother, on the situation comedy Family Matters. Her character actually originated on the sitcom Perfect Strangers in a recurring role as an elevator operator from 1987 to 1989. Audiences liked the Harriette Winslow character so much that the character was spun off into her own show.


Jo Marie's big break came when she was cast as the elevator operator on the ABC sitcom Perfect Strangers in 1987. Her performance was so well received by audiences that she was given her own sitcom, Family Matters, in 1989. Continuing her character Harriette Winslow from Perfect Strangers, she played a mother in an African-American middle-class family living in Chicago. Payton left Family Matters partway through its final season, appearing for the last time on December 19, 1997. Her character was played by Judyann Elder in the show's remaining eight episodes. Reportedly the reason for her departure was due to her dissatisfaction of the show shifting its focus to the character of Steve Urkle and away from the original series premise of being a spin-off for the character of Harriet.

In 2002, she appeared on the "TV Moms" episode of the Anne Robinson version of The Weakest Link, and was the third one voted off. In 2003, Payton and her daughter appeared on a Mother's Day episode of Lingo, playing against fellow TV mom Meredith Baxter and her daughter. Baxter and her daughter won.

In 2005, Jo Marie Payton provided the voice of Suga Mama in The Proud Family Movie. Her other television credits include Desperate Housewives, Reba, Girlfriends, Wanda at Large, Judging Amy, The Parkers, Will & Grace, The Hughleys, 7th Heaven, Moesha, The Jamie Foxx Show, 227, Silver Spoons, Small Wonder and The New Odd Couple. She also appeared in the Canadian TV mini series The Rev as Mama. In 2005, Payton co-hosted the 15th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards with Glynn Turman. In August 2009, she appeared on Meet the Browns as Shirley Van Owen.

She hosted her own show on the Hometeam Network, Second Chance with Jomarie Payton.

In 2012 she was in the GMC TV movie special From This Day Forward.


  • Jo Marie Payton...
    • a graduate of North Dade Jr./Sr. High in Bunche Park, Florida and Miami Carol City Senior High School in Dade Country, Florida
    • ...also graduated from Albany State University and continued to donate
    • ...has appeared in the TV movie The Flight Before Christmas were she reunites by her co-cast of Family Matters is Reginald VelJohnson
    • ... also reunite with Telma Hopkins from their short-lived sitcom series The New Odd Couple.
  • Despite reports, Payton would later confirm that her departure wasn’t based on Jaleel White. She stated she was very happy for his success on the show. She would state that her departure was simply to pursue other ventures as she didn’t want to continue playing the same role. She let her contract expire but agreed to stay on for part of season nine until a replacement was cast.
  • Payton was later contacted to reprise the role during the early development stages of the tenth season, which was confirmed to be the last. It was rumored that she had agreed to return. However, the show would be unexpectedly cancelled shortly after principal photography had wrapped for the ninth season.


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