American TV Trailblazer, Norman Lear, Dies At 101

“Life is about having a good time, and it was a good time. We did some things well and some things poorly, but that was always the case.”

Norman Lear

Norman Lear, creator of classic shows like “All in the Family, “The Jeffersons”, and “Maude”, died of natural causes while surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. He was 101.

Not only did Lear leave laughter wherever he went, but he also wrote films such as “Cold Turkey” and “Come Blow Your Horn” and created People For The American Way (PFAW) — a non-profit organization whose goal is to protect democracy.

All in the Family (TV Series 1971–1979) - IMDb
Courtesy of Getty Images.

Early Life

Born July 27, 1922, in New Haven, Connecticut, Lear graduated from Weaver High School in 1940 — going on to attend Emerson College in Boston. However, he left not too long after to enlist in the Air Force when America entered WWII. After WWII, Lear would not return to Emerson, instead getting a job at George and Dorothy Ross’ publicity firm with the help of his uncle. Due to his natural creativity, he was fired a year later from his job — moving to Los Angeles with his wife in 1949. There he would work with his friend Ed Simmons as door-to-door salesmen, later writing comedy routines together. The two hit it big when Lear called up Danny Thomas, a nightclub entertainer and future TV star, through his agent and by pretending to be a New York Times reporter, got Thomas’ home phone number. Thomas, appreciating his boldness, purchased the routine the two made for him.

An Overview of Lear’s Legacy

  • 1950s — Lear embarked on his writing career, producing a multitude of television programs such as The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Martha Raye Show, and The Martin and Lewis Show.
  • 1960s — Lear enters the film industry, producing many movies. Some notable ones include Never Too Late, Divorce American Style, and The Night They Raided Minsky’s. He eventually returns to his roots, beginning with his hit show All in the Family.
  • Late 1970s — People for the American Way was created in response to televangelists suggesting only people who shared the same religious and political views were “good Americans”.
  • 1984 — Lear is inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
  • 1989 — Lear founded the Business Enterprise Trust and the Environmental Media Association (with other founders).
  • 1999 — President Bill Clinton awards Lear with the National Medal of Arts.
  • 2003 — Declare Yourself is founded, a nonprofit organization that encourages voting among people ages 18 to 29.
  • 2014 — Lear wrote his memoir, Even This I Get to Experience, expressing his views on the true depth of laughter.
  • 2016 — Lear stars in his documentary, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, recounting the prevalence of comedy throughout his life.
  • 2017-2020 — Lear reimagines One Day at a Time, becoming the first Netflix series renewed for network TV (namely PopTV and CBS).
  • 2021 — Amazon Prime Video and Freevee release full seasons of Lear’s All in the Family, Good Times, Maude, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Diff’rent Strokes, and Sanford and Son.
  • 2021 — Lear accepts the Carol Burnett Award at the Golden Globe Awards.
Image by Stephen Jaffe (AFP via GETTY)

“I loved Norman Lear with all my heart. He was my second father. Sending my love to Lyn and the whole Lear family.”

Director Rob Reiner

Lear is survived by his wife, six children, and four grandchildren. His family has requested privacy and any contributions will be made to People For the American Way.

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