Bill Cosby: Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Gary Susman
September 11, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The 11 or so comics hosting the Emmys this year will have to make room on stage for one more: Bill Cosby. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday that Cosby will receive this year’s Bob Hope Humanitarian award for his long history of charitable work and activism in support of education and racial equality. Cosby is the honorary Emmy’s second winner; the first was Oprah Winfrey last year. Ray Romano, who seems to have inherited Cosby’s mantle as TV’s favorite sitcom dad, will present the award.

”With Bob Hope’s passing from the scene so recently, it’s more important than ever to see the torch passed to others who embody his commitment to good works,” Academy chairman Bryce Zabel said in a statement. ”Bill Cosby, like Hope, has not only made Americans laugh over a long career, but he has also used his stardom to shine a light on strengthening the family values which make our country great. He’s the right man at the right time to receive this year’s award.”

Cosby has won three acting Emmys, all for his role as Alexander Scott in his groundbreaking 1960s series ”I Spy.” Despite the huge critical and popular success of his 1984-92 sitcom ”The Cosby Show,” he hasn’t won a primetime Emmy in competition since 1968, though the Academy inducted him into the TV Hall of Fame in 1992. He’ll pick up his prize at the 55th annual Emmy ceremony, which airs live Sept. 21 on Fox.

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