Norman Lear, Television Writer and Producer of “All in the Family”

With four Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, accolades from the Writers Guild of America and a National Medal of Arts from President Clinton, Norman Lear has certainly earned his place in film and television history. And he didn’t stop there. Lear has also made a name for himself as a social activist and philanthropist.

Norman Lear’s Early Days

Norman Milton Lear was born on July 27, 1922, in New Haven, Connecticut. He attended Emerson College in Massachusetts for just two years before joining the military to serve in World War II.

Lear’s writing career began in 1950 when he signed on to write for “The Ford Star Revue” with his partner, Ed Simmons. The two men completed only four episodes before being hired to write for the “Colgate Comedy Hour.” After that, Lear embarked on a solo career, writing for “The Martha Raye Show,” “The George Gobel Show” and “The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.”

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Lear’s Career in Television

Some of Lear’s best accomplishments were his pioneering efforts in socially conscious television. Lear helped create “All in the Family,” which was “not only one of the most successful sitcoms in history, it was also one of the most important and influential series ever to air,” according to The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Featuring the Bunker family, the show launched a new era in television, addressing racism and other matters of social importance.

Following “All in the Family,” Lear helped create several successful series, and his resume includes series such as “Maude,” “Sanford and Son” and “The Jeffersons.”

In 2003 he bridged an age gap of sorts when Norman Lear joined the creators of “South Park” to help write for the show’s seventh season. Lear’s teenage son introduced him to the show, and he called to compliment the creators on their work. When he was asked to write with them, the then-80-year-old Lear said he didn’t consider the work a job. “They invited me to a party and we’re partying,” Lear said after a writers’ meeting. “There’s no way to overstate the kick of being welcomed by this group.”

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Outside the entertainment industry, Norman Lear has founded multiple nonprofit organizations like People For the American Way, the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and the Business Enterprise Trust.

In 2000, he and his wife, along with a friend, purchased one of 25 original prints of the Declaration of Independence. The print was part of the Declaration of Independence Road Trip and the Declare Yourself youth voter activism project, which took place from 2001 until the 2004 presidential election.

Lear took an active role in encouraging voting in the 2008 presidential election. The Los Angeles Times wrote, “While the rest of Hollywood is still agonizing over which candidate to publicly endorse, Lear…has been busy signing up…voters younger than 30.”

Lear is also active on social media, and his series “One Day at a Time” was rebooted on Netflix. In June 2017, he was also the first recipient of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Pioneer Award.

This article was originally written by Lindsey Chapman; it was updated June 21, 2017.