Norman Lear, the TV legend behind beloved sitcoms 'All in the Family,' 'The Jeffersons,' and more, dead at 101

norman lear
Norman Lear attends Game Changers: Opening Keynote from Norman Lear at NATPE 2015 .Aaron Davidson/Getty Images
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  • TV icon Norman Lear died Tuesday at the age of 101.

  • Lear is known best for creating landmark shows like "All in the Family" and "Sanford and Son."

  • He was also known for his political activism.

TV writer and producer Norman Lear died on Tuesday aged 101.

Lear was behind some of the biggest TV shows of all time, including "All in the Family" and "Sanford and Son."

Lear died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes, according to multiple reports and a statement posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Along with his revolutionary storytelling that earned him six Primetime Emmy Awards, Lear was also a political activist who was a supporter of First Amendment rights and funded liberal and progressive causes for most of his professional career.

Lear was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1922. He attended Emerson College in Boston but dropped out to join the Air Force before World War II.

He is survived by his third wife, Lyn Davis, and six children.

Norman Lear Colgate Variety Hour Getty
Norman Lear (left) writing jokes for "The Colgate Comedy Hour" in the 1950s.Getty

Lear was a joke writer at the birth of television

Lear got into the entertainment business after service in World War II. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1942 and was a radio operator/gunner on bomber planes. He flew 52 combat missions and was discharged in 1945.

His first job after the war was in public relations. He got into production when he moved out to Los Angeles. Throughout the 1950s, he teamed with Ed Simmons, who was married to his first cousin Elaine, and the two submitted comedy sketches to TV shows at which time he also did everything from selling home furnishings to family photos door-to-door.

The duo's work was used for comedy routines by the likes of Martin and Lewis and Rowan and Martin. It led to Lear and Simmons being contracted by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis for "The Colgate Comedy Hour" until 1953.

In 1958, Lear teamed with director Bud Yorkin, and the two formed Tandem Productions. With Yorkin, Lear got a crash course in feature films as he was either a writer, director, or producer on several movies (he received a best screenplay nomination at the Oscars for 1968's "Divorce American Style").

But TV was the future and Lear was instrumental in its explosion in popularity.

Norman Lear All in the family CBS
Norman Lear (center) with the cast of "All in the Family."CBS

'All in the Family' launched a string of hits for Lear

In 1970, Tandem signed with CBS to make "All in the Family," and it would be the first of several shows by Lear that would touch on the racial, social, and cultural divide that was occurring in the US at the time of the Vietnam War.

The sitcom, which follows the life of Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) and his family, would earn four best comedy series Emmys and a Peabody Award. The show focuses on the Bunkers, a working-class family in Queens whose narrow-minded patriarch, Archie, is prejudiced against pretty much everyone.

The show became groundbreaking for touching on issues never explored on television up to that point, including racism, homosexuality, antisemitism, and religion.

Lear would follow the success of "All in the Family" with more landmark TV shows that examined the social commentary of the time including "Sanford and Son," "Good Times," "The Jeffersons," and "One Day at a Time."

Norman Lear Kris Connor Getty
Norman Lear.Kris Connor/Getty

Lear will also be remembered for his activism

While continuing to become a titan in television, Lear moved his focus to political activism.

As part of the "Malibu Mafia," a group of wealthy men in the entertainment business who donated money to liberal and progressive causes, Lear helped fund the failed presidential campaign of George McGovern in 1972 and the legal defense of Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers. In 1981, Lear founded People for the American Way, a progressive advocacy organization formed to oppose the Christian Right.

In 2001, Lear and his wife Lyn grabbed headlines when they purchased one of the first published copies of the Declaration of Independence and took it on a tour around the country so people could see it.

In 2017, Lear was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, which is given out annually to performers for their lifetime work in the arts.

Read the original article on Business Insider