Geeks logo

Remembering Norman Lear

The mastermind behind the numerous 1970s sitcom has died at age 101.

By Gladys W. MuturiPublished 6 months ago 7 min read
Top Story - December 2023
5
Norman Lear

Legendary Emmy-winning TV creator behind numerous 1970s sitcoms: All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, and Good Times, producer, writer, and activist Norman Lear has died on December 5, 2023, at the age of 101 at his California home. A spokesperson released a statement confirming his death. The statement has been released on his website.

"Thank you for the moving outpouring of love and support in honor of our wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. Norman lived a life of creativity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all. Knowing and loving him has been the greatest of gifts. We ask for your understanding as we mourn privately in celebration of this remarkable human being.Norman lived a life in awe of the world around him. He marveled at his cup of coffee every morning, the shape of the tree outside his window, and the sounds of beautiful music. But it was people—those he just met and those he knew for years—who kept his mind and heart forever young. He adored his creative collaborators, revered the actors with whom he worked, and deeply admired the thoughts of the great philosophers and thinkers of his time. In a storage room in Los Angeles, there are hundreds of boxes of his correspondence with people whose plays he saw, articles he read, and movies he watched; he wrote to everyone, and they wrote back. In that way, Norman’s life expanded in concentric circles to include thousands upon thousands of friends. His “Over, Next” philosophy shaped his life and kept him moving forward, ever open to new ideas, experiences, and connections. Norman lived a life of patriotism. Frightened by antisemitic rhetoric he heard on the radio as a child, Norman became a lifelong activist and philanthropist. He felt that one of his greatest contributions to the world was founding People For The American Way in 1981, an organization created to help guarantee our first amendment rights. The organization continues its work to this day. He flew 52 missions in World War II and was proud of that service every day of his life. He was the consummate American for the America he believed in and worked tirelessly to protect. Norman lived a life of gratitude. “Am I not the luckiest dude?” he often said. He was grateful for everything that brought him to the moment he was in. As a husband, father, and grandfather, he was unwaveringly devoted. He was always transparent and vocal about his love and admiration for each of us. We were adored by him, and we adored him right back. Knowing and loving him has been the greatest of gifts. We ask for your understanding as we mourn privately in celebration of this remarkable human being."

Statement from spokesperson on the behalf of the Lear family.

Norman Milton Lear was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 27, 1922, to Herman Lear, a securities broker who served time in prison for selling fake bonds, and Jeanette, a homemaker who helped inspire Edith Bunker from the sitcom All in the Family. As a teenager, Lear won a scholarship to Emerson College in an American Legion oratorical contest about the U.S. Constitution, drawing on his experience as a child hearing antisemitic radio broadcasts by the notorious Father Coughlin. These broadcasts deeply impacted Lear and awakened in him a love of country and a lifelong devotion to the democratic ideals of justice, equality, and the preservation of First Amendment rights. When the United States was drawn into World War II, Lear dropped out of Emerson College to fight fascism, and he flew on 52 combat missions over Europe in a B-17 bomber. In the '50s, Lear began a successful career writing and producing television programs like The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Martha Raye Show, and The Martin and Lewis Show. By the '60s, he had moved on to writing and producing films such as Come Blow Your Horn, Never Too Late, Divorce American Style, The Night They Raided Minsky’s, and he wrote, produced, and directed Cold Turkey. During the 70s, Lear created sitcoms that tackled fraught topics of racism, feminism, and social inequalities. His first sitcom, All in the Family, aired on CBS, ran from 1971 until 1979 for nine seasons. The show starred Jean Stapleton, Sally Struthers, Carroll O'Connor, and Rob Reiner.

Lear's second big TV sitcom, Sanford and Son based on a British TV sitcom, starred comedian Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson ran from 1972 to 1977.

Demond Wilson (standing) and Redd Foxx (sitting) in Sanford and Son

Then Maude, a spinoff to All in the Family, starring Bea Arthur who made a guest appearance on the show and then in the 80s would star in another sitcom which is the Golden Girls ran 1972 to'78.

Then, One Day at a Time, 1975 to 1984.

The Jeffersons 1975 to 1985

And last but not least Good Times 1974 to 1979.

All of his sitcoms earned him six Primetime Emmy Awards. At the end of the 1970s, at the height of his success in entertainment, Lear put his television career on hold to mobilize Americans on behalf of the freedoms for which he had fought as a young man. Lear was alarmed by the divisiveness and rising political influence of televangelists who suggested that only people who shared their religious beliefs and political worldview could be good Americans. Recognizing such exclusionary rhetoric as a threat to a diverse democratic society, Lear recruited civic, religious, business, and civil rights leaders, including the late Rep. Barbara Jordan, to join him in creating People For the American Way, and in campaigning defending the freedom of expression, oppose censorship, uphold religious liberty, support access to the ballot, and more. He was an active member of the progressive advocacy organization’s board until his death. In a Washington Post op-ed published in 2021 on his 99th birthday, Lear wrote,

“I am a patriot, and I will not surrender that word to those who play to our worst impulses rather than our highest ideals.”

In 2014, Lear published his memoir Even This I Get to Experience. Lear attributed the success of his series to stories drawn from the real experiences of his writers that lent to the authenticity of the characters they developed.

“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.”

Excerpt from Even This I Get to Experience, 2014

Lear lived long enough to become not only an elder statesman of the entertainment industry but to receive accolades that spanned generations, being presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton in 1999, getting inducted into the Kennedy Center at its annual honors in 2017, and becoming the oldest nominee and winner of an Emmy, at 97, in 2019, then breaking his record in 2020. Some of his sitcoms: All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Good Times were presented and performed live on ABC's television special Live in Front of a Studio Audience hosted by Lear (himself) and Jimmy Kimmel featuring former castmates of Lear's sitcoms, actors portraying as the characters and musicians singing the theme songs for instance Jennifer Hudson singing the Jeffersons theme song which she did phemonal.

At the time of his death, Lear was surrounded by his family singing some songs including the Jeffersons theme song. According to Inside Edition, his son-in-law said he reportedly didn't feel any pain.

Tributes

Tributes pour out from many fans who have watched his sitcoms even celebrities and some of his living co-stars from his former sitcoms.

Here are some tributes:

Director Rob Reiner, who played Bunker’s politically polar opposite son-in-law Michael “Meathead” Stivic on the sitcom.

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

-Rob Reiner

Actor and Director Tyler Perry shares a tribute to Lear.

"...A hero and someone who inspired me to try and bring as much laughter to the world." via Instagram (@tylerperry)

Actor John Leguizamo:

"A master of storytelling and a healer through his shows! He is what all of showbiz should be aspiring to. He is the consummate creative producer we have long abandoned in the industry."

Ernest Harden Jr, also starred in one of his sitcoms:

Facebook post

Director Mel Brooks:

"He was a great positive force in the entertainment industry, & more importantly to me personally he was a good friend. We are so lucky to have his remarkable body of work to remember him by."

Al Franken, podcast host:

"God bless Norman Lear who gave America comedy and satire with warmth and hilarity. Norman was a champion of democracy and a kind and generous soul. A giant. May his memory be a blessing to all who had the privilege to know him."

Norman was a pioneer in creating American comedy tackling serious issues going on during the 70s and in the modern world. So long Mister Norman Lear and you will truly be missed!!!!

THANK YOU NORMAN LEAR!

Source

CNN

New York Times

Variety

AP

pop culturetvlistindustryentertainmentcomedycelebrities
5

About the Creator

Gladys W. Muturi

Hello, My name is Gladys W. Muturi. I am an Actress, Writer, Filmmaker, Producer, and Mother of 1.

Instagram: @gladys_muturi95

Twitter: @gladys_muturi

Facebook: facebook.com/gladystheactress

YouTube: @gladys_muturi

patreon.com/gwmuturi

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

Add your insights

Comments (2)

Sign in to comment
  • Babs Iverson6 months ago

    Beautiful tribute!!! Congratulations on Top Story!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Kendall Defoe 6 months ago

    Such a big part of my childhood, and how I figured out what a sitcom could be and do... Thank you for this.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.