Norman Lear, who produced widely successful TV sitcoms including “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” in the 1970s, passed away at his Los Angeles home on Tuesday at the age of 101.
“Norman lived a life of curiosity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all,” his family said in a statement. “He began his career in the earliest days of live television and discovered a passion for writing about the real lives of Americans, not a glossy ideal. At first, his ideas were met with closed doors and misunderstanding. However, he stuck to his conviction that the ‘foolishness of the human condition’ made great television, and eventually he was heard.”
In 1971, Lear launched “All In The Family,” which tackled a number of topics, including racism, feminism, and social inequalities, which, at the time, wasn’t touched. The show was centered on the working-class white American Bunker family and its patriarch, Archie Bunker, who, despite his likability, was described as small-minded, irascible, and prejudiced.
Director Rob Reiner, who starred as Bunker’s politically polar opposite son-in-law Michael “Meathead” Stivic on the sitcom, paid tribute to Lear on social media on Wednesday.
“I loved Norman Lear with all my heart. He was my second father. Sending my love to Lyn and the whole Lear family,” Reiner wrote on X.
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 (@robreiner) December 6, 2023
The success of “All In The Family” resulted in an Emmy for Outstanding New Series and a number of popular and political spinoffs, including “Sanford and Son,” “Maude,” and “Good Times.”
In his 2014 memoir, “Even This I Get to Experience,” Lear explained that the success of the sitcom was attributed to the stories taken from the real experiences of his writers that were reflected in 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.”
According to CNN, Lear was also the executive producer of cult movie classics “The Princess Bride” and “Fried Green Tomatoes” and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for “Divorce American Style.”
Lear also received a number of accolades for his impact, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton in 1999, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017, and becoming the oldest nominee and winner of an Emmy, at 98, in 2020, breaking the record he had after receiving the award in 2019.
He was also the founder of the liberal political organization People for the American Way.
Lear is survived by his third wife, Lyn Davis, as well as his six children and grandchildren.
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.