Renowned Producer Norman Lear dies at 101 years of age. Norman Lear, renowned TV producer, died at 101, renowned for his successful sitcoms All in the Family and The Jeffersons, which combined comedy with social commentary.
Lear passed away from natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Tuesday, according to his family spokesperson, Lara Bergthold.
Lear is survived by his wife, Lyn, and has had a total of six children from his three marriages.
Leading Up to Fame
Norman Lear was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 27, 1922, and his childhood was not all laughter. His father was imprisoned for fraud for selling forged bonds when he was nine years old, and his mother sent him to live with his grandparents.
He attended Emerson College in Boston on a scholarship as a young man before leaving to serve in World War II. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and flew 52 combat missions over Germany and Italy.
Following the war, he relocated to Hollywood, where his career in the entertainment industry flourished. He’d achieved a level of success and widespread influence that few others could match by the early 1970s.
Norman Lear’s Legacy
Lear, a post-war writer, created groundbreaking 1970s TV series tackling social issues like racism, rape, abortion, menopause, homosexuality, and religion, breaking taboos and defining a generation.
Lear’s 1971 groundbreaking series All in the Family explored racism, feminism, and social inequalities, focusing on the Bunker family and its patriarch, Archie Bunker. In a 2021 CBS Sunday Morning interview, Lear stated that the show resonated with individuals from all political backgrounds. Lear highlighted the spiritual moment of an audience in a belly laugh, despite a divisive subject matter, as it allows for unexpected laughter and bonding among the audience.
Emmy Award winning All in the Family spawned a slew of popular and provocative spin-offs, including Sanford and Son, Maude, and Good Times. The latter show broke new ground with predominantly Black casts, but was also accused of promoting racial stereotypes.
Lear worked until he was 90 years old. A 95-year-old Lear co-produced and hosted three episodes of Live in Front of a Studio Audience, which won Primetime Emmys in 2019 and 2020. The series re-created original episodes of The Jeffersons, All in the Family, and Good Times with current actors such as Jamie Fox, Woody Harrelson, and Viola Davis.
Lear has won numerous awards throughout his career, including six Emmys, a Golden Globe, and the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors. In 1984, he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
Lear’s Political Activism
Lear’s own activism in liberal circles was inspired by the political and social issues he explored on screen. In 1981, he co-founded the nonprofit organization People For the American Way (PFAW). PFAW advocates for progressive causes and to counter the nation’s divisions and discord.
“I often feel disheartened by the direction that our politics, courts, and culture are taking,” Lear wrote in a New York Times op-ed in 2022. But I have faith in our country and its future. I keep reminding myself how far we’ve come.”
Upon learning of Lear’s death, PFAW president Svante Myrick said in a statement,
We are heartbroken. We extend our deepest sympathies to Norman’s wife Lyn and their entire family, and to the many people who, like us, loved Norman. Norman loved this country, and he loved defending its ideals. We will honor Norman by carrying on the work to which he dedicated so much of his life.
Hollywood Remembers “A Giant”
Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, and Quinta Brunson are among those who have paid tribute to Norman Lear.
Director Rob Reiner, who played Bunker’s politically diametrically opposed son-in-law Michael “Meathead” Stivic, paid tribute to Lear on social media.
“I loved Norman Lear with all my heart. He was my second father. Sending my love to Lyn and the whole Lear family,” Reiner shared in a statement.
Billy Crystal was friends with Learn for almost 50 years. Crystal paid tribute to his friend on X, saying “We have lost a giant..a man of great humor and dignity. What an amazing life that has given so much to us all. He used laughter as a way to look at ourselves. A blessing to have been his friend for almost 50 yrs.”
Quinta Brunson, creator and star of Abbott Elementary, meanwhile paid tribute to Norman Lear on X, writing “My Goat. What a life. Rest well, Norman Lear.”
George Clooney shared: “It’s hard to reconcile that at 101 years old, Norman Lear is gone too soon. The entire world of reason just lost its greatest advocate and our family lost a dear friend. A giant walked in his shoes.”
A Final Word From Lear
In his 2014 memoir, Even This I Get to Experience, Lear attributed the success of his series to stories drawn from his writers’ real-life experiences, which lent authenticity to the characters they created.
“The audiences themselves taught me that you can get some wonderful laughs on the surface with funny performers and good jokes,” he wrote, “But if you want them laughing from the belly, you stand a better chance if you can get them caring first.”
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