Norman Lear was an American television writer and producer. He was a trailblazer in the use of television as a vehicle for social change, demonstrating that the medium could be both educational and entertaining. Not only did his work alter audience expectations for sitcoms, but it also had a lasting impact on subsequent generations of writers and producers.
He was also a well-known political activist who contributed significantly financially to politicians and progressive causes. To counter the conservative Christian agenda, Lear established People for the American Way as an advocacy group in 1980.
Is Norman Lear Still Alive?
No, he is not alive. The renowned American television writer, producer, and activist Norman Lear passed away at the age of 101. The legendary actor passed away on Tuesday, December 5, 2023, at his Los Angeles home due to natural causes.
In addition, Lear’s official Instagram account confirmed the news next to a monochrome image of the legendary television host grinning. According to the post, Lear passed away “surrounded by his family as we told stories and sang songs until the very end.”
“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 decades—who kept his mind and heart forever young,” the caption read. “As we celebrate his legacy and reflect on the next chapter of life without him, we would like to thank everyone for all the love and support.”
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After celebrating his 101st birthday in July, Lear passed away. The esteemed TV creator celebrated his 100th birthday plus one by sharing a thoughtful yet lighthearted video on Instagram.
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Norman Lear’s Early Life
In 1922, Norman Lear was born into a Jewish family in New Haven, Connecticut. His father, Hyman, was a travelling salesman, and his mother was Jeanette. Claire, his younger sister, was his only sibling. When Lear was nine years old, two significant events happened: his father was arrested for selling fictitious bonds, and while he was playing with his radio, he came across Father Charles Coughlin, an anti-Semitic Catholic radio priest.
While Lear’s lifelong dedication to advocacy was inspired by the latter incident, the former incident would later inspire the character of Archie Bunker. Lear attended Emerson College in Boston after graduating from Hartford, Connecticut’s Weaver High School in 1940.
He did, however, leave school in 1942 to enlist in the US Army Air Forces. He flew 52 combat missions while serving as a radio operator and gunner in the Mediterranean theatre, earning the Air Medal in the process.
Lear worked in public relations after the war before relocating to Los Angeles, California, to live with his cousin Elaine. Lear sold furniture to people door to door, a business she did with Elaine’s husband, Ed Simmons, an aspiring comedy writer. The two worked together on comedic sketches for Rowan and Martin, Martin and Lewis, and other shows throughout the 1950s. In 1953, Norman and Ed were writing for three Martin and Lewis comedy specials for a record-breaking $52,000 apiece (equivalent to $500,000 in modern currency).
When Lear was hired in 1954 to write for the brand-new CBS sitcom “Honestly, Celeste!,” the program was quickly cancelled. Lear also wrote some of the opening monologues for “The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show” at this time, and he started producing the short-lived sitcom “The Martha Raye Show.” In 1959, Lear produced his debut television program, “The Deputy,” a Henry Fonda Western.
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Norman Lear Career
In addition to his achievements in television and movies, Lear has long supported liberal causes. He was a member of the “Malibu Mafia,” a group of affluent Jewish men who worked to finance progressive politicians and initiatives in the 1970s and 1980s. Lear established People for the American Way in 1981 as a counter-advocacy group to the Christian right. Reagan’s 1987 nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court was thwarted by the group.
The Business Enterprise Trust was established by Lear later in 1989 as an educational initiative showcasing social innovations in American business. He endowed USC in 2000 with an interdisciplinary research and public policy centre, which became the Normal Lear Center. Lear made several other contributions, one of which was founding the nonprofit Declare Yourself campaign, which aims to get eligible young Americans to register to vote.
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