Throughout the year, TVNewsCheck has reported the deaths of outstanding men and women who shaped television as actors, lawmakers, producers, business people, journalists and on-air personalities. Here they are as Part IV of our Year in Review Special Report.
Saying Goodbye: TV’s 2012 Honor Roll
Joe L. Allbritton, 87, the founder of Allbritton Communications, owner of eight ABC affiliates (including WJLA Washington, whose call letters stand for his initials), Washington, D.C.’s local cable news channel News Channel 8 and the print and online Politico, got his start in banking before turning his hand to the media business in 1974. He died on Dec. 12.
John Silva, 92, the longtime chief engineer of KTLA Los Angeles, was an innovator whose developments included the first news helicopter (he called it a “telecopter”) and live news trucks. He died Nov. 29.
Larry Hagman, 81, who played J.R. Ewing on CBS’s Dallas. Although he first gained fame as nice guy Major Tony Nelson on the fluffy 1965-70 NBC comedy I Dream of Jeannie, Hagman earned his greatest stardom with J.R. He died Nov. 23.
Jules Cohen, 93, a pioneering radio engineer whose career spanned six decades. He died on Nov. 13.
Lucille Bliss, 96, a voice actress whose career spanned 60 years in movies and television. Her TV roles ranged from the star of the first animated series produced for television, Crusader Rabbit, on NBC in 1950-52, to the original Elroy in the 1960s hit The Jetsons, to Smurfette in the 1980s The Smurfs on NBC. She died on Nov. 8.
Ann Arnold, 67, longtime president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters. During her 50-year professional career, she was also a UPI and newspaper reporter and the first female press secretary to a Texas governor. In 1987, she was asked by a group of radio and TV station owners and operators to head the TAB. During her tenure at TAB, Arnold doubled station membership, expanded an array of member services for stations and recruited top professional staff. She died Sept. 1.
John Battison, 96, longtime broadcast engineer who founded the Society of Broadcast Engineers in 1964. Today, SBE boasts more than 5,300 members in 100 chapters worldwide. He died on Aug. 28.
Phyllis Diller, 95, the comedian who got her start in the 1950s and paved the way for today’s female comics. She was a regular guest on a number of TV shows including NBC’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, starred in an ABC sitcom The Pruitts of Southamption in 1966-67 and hosted her own variety program on CBS, The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show, in 1968. She died on Aug. 20.
Sherman Hemsley, 74, the actor best known for playing George Jefferson on CBS’s The Jeffersons. Less than two years after Hemsley made his television debut as Jefferson in Norman Lear’s groundbreaking CBS sitcom All in the Family, he and All in the Family costar Isabel Sanford were given their own spin-off in The Jeffersons. The series earned Hemsley Emmy and Golden Globe nominations in 1984 and 1985 respectively. He died July 24.
Bill Asher, 90, the director and producer behind the television classics I Love Lucy and Bewitched. He was best known for his work on I Love Lucy, where he directed Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz for 100 of the show’s 181 episodes between 1952 and 1957. He died July 16.
Ernest Borgnine, 95, the actor who endeared himself to a generation of baby boomers with the 1960s ABC comedy McHale’s Navy. He first attracted notice in the early 1950s in villain roles, then came his Oscar-winning performance in Marty, a low-budget film based on a Paddy Chayefsky television play that starred Rod Steiger. He died July 8.
Andy Griffith, 86, the actor whose 1960-68 The Andy Griffith Show on CBS is considered a television classic. He starred on other shows and in films, and found TV success again with legal drama Matlock, which ran on NBC, then ABC from 1986 to 1995. But his career spanned more than a half-century and included Broadway, notably No Time for Sergeants; movies such as Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd; and records. He died July 3.
Julian Goodman, 90, the NBC president who produced the second Kennedy-Nixon debate and defended his network when it was pressured by the Nixon White House. He also negotiated a record-setting $1 million deal to retain Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show and joined other network chiefs in pushing to end the Fairness Doctrine. And he was compelled to apologize to viewers in 1968 after NBC cut away from a nationally broadcast New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game so that a movie version of Heidi could go on as scheduled. He died July 2.
Lillian Gallo, 84, formed one of the first female producing teams in Hollywood in the 1970s. In the late 1950s, she came to Hollywood to work on ABC’s The Frank Sinatra Show and met producer William Self, who mentored her at 20th Century Fox Television, where she worked on such series as Peyton Place and Batman. Later, as director of movies of the weekend for ABC, Gallo supervised more than two dozen telefilms, including Steven Spielberg‘s Duel (1971). She died June 6.
Ray Bradbury, the writer who was a master of science fiction and fantasy. In addition to his books, he also wrote for The Twilight Zone on CBS and other television programs, including The Ray Bradbury Theater on HBO and USA, for which he adapted dozens of his works. He died June 5.
Richard Dawson, 79, a British-born entertainer who made his mark in CBS’s 1960s sitcom hit Hogan’s Heroes. But it is as the kissing, wisecracking quizmaster of the syndicated Family Feud that he will be remembered. He died June 2.
Lee Rich, 85, a powerful TV mogul responsible for some of the medium’s most popular programming including CBS’s The Waltons, CBS’s Dallas and ABC’s Eight Is Enough. He helped found and became chairman of Lorimar in its heyday (where he was nominated for five Emmys and won Best Drama Series for The Waltons) and later took over MGM-UA. He died May 24.
Howard Shapiro, 86, the chairman of Weigel Broadcasting Co. He guided Weigel Broadcasting from a single struggling UHF station in Chicago to a company with more than 10 stations in three markets as well as involvement in two national broadcast networks. He died May 24.
Eugene Polley, 96, inventor of the “Flash-Matic” remote control, the world’s first wireless TV remote, introduced in 1955. He started his career with Zenith Radio Corp. in 1935. His 47-year engineering career spanned the pioneering days of radio, black-and-white television and color TV. His inventions, primarily in the field of television, earned 18 U.S. patents. He died May 20.
Stephen Lord, 85, a prolific TV writer whose credits ranged from Bonanza and Daniel Boone to CHiPs and Fantasy Island. He amassed more than 200 credits during a writing career that spanned 35 years. He died May 5.
George Lindsey, 83, TV’s Goober Pyle. Lindsey was the beanie-wearing Goober on CBS’s The Andy Griffith Show from 1964 to 1968 and its successor, Mayberry RFD, from 1968 to 1971. He played the same jovial character on the syndicated Hee Haw from 1971 until it went out of production in 1993. He died May 6.
Dick Clark, 82, the music industry maverick, longtime TV host and powerhouse producer. The former disc jockey changed how America listened to pop music with American Bandstand, which moved from a local Philadelphia show on WFIL-TV to a national phenomenon on ABC. Beginning in 1972 he also changed how the country issued in the new year with his trademark Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, also on ABC, which became a fixture of New Year’s celebrations. His Dick Clark Productions cranked out one hit show after another; his name became synonymous with everything from the $25,000 Pyramid to TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes to the American Music Awards. He died April 18.
Mike Wallace, 93, the tough-questioning interviewer on CBS’s pioneering newsmagazine 60 Minutes. His television career spanned six decades, much of it at CBS. In 1949, he appeared as Myron Wallace in a show called Majority Rules. In the early 1950s he was an announcer and game show host. In the mid-1950s he hosted Night Beat, a series of one-on-one interviews that first won Wallace fame for his tough style. After holding a variety of other news and entertainment jobs, including serving as advertising pitchman for a cigarette brand, Wallace became a full-time newsman for CBS in 1963. He said it was the death of his 19-year-old son Peter in an accident in 1962 that made him decide to stick to serious journalism from then on. He died April 7.
Don Cornelius, 75, the silken-voiced host of TV’s syndicated Soul Train who helped break down racial barriers and broaden the reach of black culture with funky music, groovy dance steps and cutting-edge style. Soul Train began in 1970 in Chicago on WCIU-TV as a local program and aired nationally from 1971 to 2006. It showcased such legendary artists as Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Barry White and brought the best R&B, soul and later hip-hop acts to TV and had teenagers dance to them. It was one of the first shows to showcase African-Americans prominently, although the dance group was racially mixed. Cornelius was the show’s first host and executive producer. He died Feb. 1.
John Rich, 86, a prolific television comedy director and a key figure in the history of the Directors Guild of America. He began his career directing early 1950s sitcoms like ABC’s I Married Joan, starring Joan Davis, and CBS’s Our Miss Brooks, starring Eve Arden, went on to direct 81 episodes of CBS’s All in the Family in the 1970s. He won two Emmys, one for directing and one for producing, on that series, plus a third Emmy for directing CBS’s The Dick Van Dyke Show. He died Jan. 29.
David Dziedzic, 49, SVP of business development at the National Association of Broadcasters. He was responsible for most of the non-dues revenue of the association, including exhibit sales, sponsorship, advertising, member services, merchandise and publications. He died Jan. 14.
Richard Threlkeld, 74, a former CBS and ABC news correspondent. Threlkeld spent more than 25 years at CBS News, joining the network as a producer-editor in 1966 and retiring in 1998. He was a reporter, anchor and bureau chief who covered the Persian Gulf War and the Vietnam War, the Patty Hearst kidnapping and trial, and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. He moved to ABC in 1981, but returned to CBS in 1989. He died Jan. 13.
James Fellows, 77, an advocate of high ideals, strategic planning and executive training for public television. He represented stations on the national scene for 40 years, serving as the last president of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters, a forerunner and parent of PBS and NPR. Recognizing that few station leaders had ever been trained as managers and budgeters, he developed intensive short courses taught at business schools. He founded Current as one of NAEB’s last projects in 1980 and remained its publisher, in effect, for more than 20 years. He died Jan. 6.
Read the other three stories in this Year in Review Special Report here.