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All In The Family Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

Beloved sitcom "All in the Family," created by legendary TV writer and producer Norman Lear, ran for nine seasons from 1971 to 1979. The series starred Carroll O'Connor as lovable bigot Archie Bunker, Jean Stapleton as Archie's unappreciated wife Edith, Sally Struthers as their daughter Gloria, and Rob Reiner as her husband Mike. The family is working class and lives in Queens, New York. Being a product of the post-1960s era, the sitcom weaves in issues of racism, antisemitism, feminism, LGBTQ rights, religion, sexual abuse, and the anti-war movement into more accessible family-centered storylines. Through depicting these controversial issues, "All in the Family" made waves, yet also eased more conservative viewers into these topics. Some viewers see themselves as an Archie, while others are closer to the more liberal Mike and Gloria. 

These days, "All in the Family" is still considered one of television's greatest sitcoms, despite its now somewhat controversial portrayal of bigotry and progressivism. Being an older show, however, many of the series' stars have passed away. Here's who in the cast of "All in the Family" has died that you may not remember. 

Carroll O'Connor

Archie Bunker was played by Carroll O'Connor. The NYC-born O'Connor started his career out on the stage in both Dublin, Ireland, where he graduated from college, and in New York City. After making his TV debut on the series "Sunday Showcase," he got parts on other TV shows, such as "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," "The Fugitive," "The Wild Wild West, "The Outer Limits," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," and "That Girl," among others. 

His most successful role was certainly playing Archie Bunker on "All in the Family," however, and on the spinoff, "Archie Bunker's Place," from 1979 to 1983. After his time as Archie Bunker came to an end, O'Connor went on to star on the TV version of "In the Heat of the Night," which became another one of his career-defining roles. As a result, O'Connor became one of the only actors to win the Primetime Emmy Award for lead actor in both a comedy and a drama series.

O'Connor was married to Nancy Fields until his death. The couple had an adopted son named Hugh, who died from suicide in 1995 after a long struggle with drug addiction. As a result, O'Connor did a number of PSAs in the '90s for Partnership for a Drug Free America. His last roles were on "Mad About You" and "Party of Five." O'Connor died in 2001 at the age of 76 from a heart attack and complications of diabetes.

Jean Stapleton

Jean Stapleton played Edith Bunker, Archie's often-ridiculed wife. Her character is kind and understanding, but Archie's very outdated treatment of her is something audiences today may cringe at, particularly his repeated order that she "stifle" herself. Nevertheless, Edith is the heart of "All in the Family," and has occasion to prove Archie wrong and help him find his empathy.

Stapleton was born in New York City just like her co-star O'Connor, and also started out on the stage. As the daughter of an opera singer, the performing arts were in her blood. She started out doing summer stock theater and made it to Broadway as part of famous musicals including "Funny Girl" and "Damn Yankees." 

Stapleton's pre-"All in the Family" TV roles came on shows like "The Patty Duke Show," "My Three Sons," and "Dennis the Menace." By the time "Archie Bunker's Place" rolled around, Stapleton decided Edith Bunker had run her course, and decided not to renew her contract. Thus, after five episodes on the spinoff, her character died from a stroke. Stapleton herself died in 2013 at the age of 90 after a long and extensive acting career.

Sherman Hemsley

Sherman Hemsley played George Jefferson, a character audiences probably know best from "The Jeffersons," rather than "All in the Family." But indeed, George Jefferson started out as Archie Bunker's neighbor, who he often butts heads with over neighborly things and the general state of the world. Hemsley played George on "All in the Family" from 1973 through 1978.

As the song goes, the Jeffersons "move on up" from their former neighborhood in Queens to a "deluxe apartment in the sky" in Manhattan. "The Jeffersons" ran for a whopping 11 seasons, from 1975 through 1985. Hemsley also enjoyed an extensive stage career, and appeared on other television shows, such as "Amen," "Dinosaurs," and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." When Hemsley died in 2012  at the age of 74 of lung cancer, his will left everything to a woman named Flora Isela Enchinton, his dear friend and business partner. But Hemsley wasn't buried for over a month, because a Philadelphia man named Richard Thornton claimed to be his long-lost brother. The drawn-out legal proceedings were eventually resolved when the court ruled in favor of Enchinton.

Isabel Sanford

Isabel Sanford played George Jefferson's wife Louise, lovingly known as "Weezy." Where Archie and George are hot-headed and often have quarrels, Edith and Louise are always trying to figure out how to calm them down. Louise first appears in Season 1 of "All in the Family," much earlier than George does. She is portrayed as kind and sensible like Edith, but much smarter. Sanford joined Sherman Hemsley in their move to "The Jeffersons" in 1975.

Sanford was born in New York City and joined Harlem's American Negro Theater and The Star Players after graduating high school. She made her stage debut in 1946, and appeared in both off-Broadway and Broadway shows. In 1960, after separating from her husband, she and her three children moved to Los Angeles, where Sanford's movie and TV career truly kicked off. She was cast in the classic 1967 film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and caught the attention of Norman Lear, who cast her in "All in the Family." 

For "The Jeffersons," Sanford earned five Golden Globe nominations and seven Emmy nominations. She won the Emmy Award in 1981 for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, marking her the first Black actress to win in that category. Sanford died in 2004 in Los Angeles at the age of 86.

Mike Evans

George and Louise Jefferson's son Lionel first appears in the "All in the Family" series premiere, "Meet the Bunkers." Lionel's character is notable for being a positive depiction of an opinionated Black man, which was rather revolutionary for the time. Lionel doesn't let Archie's casual racism bother him — rather, he laughs it off as a sign of Archie's backwards thinking. He sees Archie as more of an ignorant person than an evil one, and often patronizes him. Still, Archie considers Lionel a friend and even something of a mentee.

Evans joined the cast of "The Jeffersons" when that series spun off of "All in the Family." During the first few seasons of "The Jeffersons," Lionel marries his biracial wife Jenny, and they have a daughter named Jessica. Evans left "The Jeffersons" to work on the series "Good Times," which he helped create, and was replaced by actor Damon Evans (no relation). Mike Evans returned for the final season of "The Jeffersons." He died of throat cancer at the age of 57 in 2006.

Allan Melvin

Allan Melvin played Archie's neighbor and best friend Barney Hefner. He starts out as a recurring character making occasional appearances, but his presence increases throughout "All in the Family." He also made another appearance on the show before audiences started to recognize him as Barney: In Season 2's "Archie in the Lock-Up," Melvin plays a desk officer at a police precinct. It's a quick scene, and easy to miss, but it's unmistakably him. Melvin's popularity rose as he played Barney, and he ended up becoming a series regular on all four seasons of the spinoff series "Archie Bunker's Place."

Born in Missouri, Melvin had the sort of expressive face TV is made for. He made multiple appearances on both "The Andy Griffith Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," played salesman Pete Dudley on "My Favorite Martian," Sergeant Hacker on "Gomer Pyle, USMC," and Sam, Alice's boyfriend, on "The Brady Bunch." He also had an extensive voice-over and commercial career, playing such beloved characters as Bluto, Magilla Gorilla, and classic Spider-Man foe Electro. Melvin died in 2008 from cancer at the age of 84, and is, appropriately enough, buried near Carroll O'Connor.

Betty Garrett

Betty Garrett and Vincent Gardenia played the Bunkers' liberal Catholic neighbors Irene and Frank Lorenzo. Irene is Irish, while Frank is Italian, highlighting the multicultural makeup of their Queens neighborhood. Irene is also something of a feminist for the day: She's notably handy with tools, and often fixes things around her own house, as well as the Bunkers'. Archie even gets her a job as a forklift operator at the same plant where he works. Irene also reveals in a special Christmas episode that she's had a mastectomy.

Another Missouri native, Garrett appeared on Broadway in the 1940s and had a contract with MGM during the studio era of Hollywood. Her most notable television role other than Irene was landlady Edna Babish on "Laverne & Shirley." She and Gardenia joined "All in the Family" after the first couple of seasons, where Irene's status as "man of the house" quickly becomes a fun foil for Archie's views on what women should be or do. Gardenia won the 1975 Golden Globe award for best supporting actress in television for her portrayal of Irene, but the character was phased out of the series in later seasons. Gardenia also appeared on "Murder, She Wrote," "The Golden Girls," and continued acting into the early '00s, appearing on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Boston Public." Garrett died in 2011 at the age of 91 of an aortic aneurysm.

Vincent Gardenia

Vincent Gardenia played the other half of the Lorenzo couple, Frank. Frank is a loud, boisterous guy who loves to sing and cook. He once worked as a salesman, though what he sold is never actually mentioned. Gardenia appeared early on in "All in the Family" as Jim Bowman, the man who sells his house to the Jeffersons. He also played swinger Curtis Rempley in Season 3. 

Gardenia was born in Naples, Italy, and enjoyed a long and varied career as an actor. He was nominated for two Academy Awards: The first, for best supporting actor, was for his role in 1973's "Bang the Drum Slowly," while the second was in the same category for his performance in 1987's "Moonstruck."

Gardenia's death created quite a theatrical conundrum. In 1992, he was in Philadelphia to perform on stage in the comedy "Breaking Legs" by Tom Dulack. Gardenia originated the role off-Broadway the year before. On the morning of the final preview show, it was discovered that Gardenia had died of a heart attack in his hotel room. The show went on, with the opening performance dedicated to Gardenia's memory.

Mel Stewart

George Jefferson's brother Henry Jefferson was played by Mel Stewart, an actor, director, and musician. Henry was introduced along with Louise and Lionel before Sherman Hemsley joined the cast as George. Henry and George only appear in one episode together on "All in the Family," which focuses on Henry's going-away party for his move to Chicago. The move was a way of phasing out the character, and indeed, he never appears on the spinoff series "The Jeffersons."

Though he only had a bit part on "All in the Family," Stewart had an extensive television career. His next project after "All in the Family” was "Roll Out," a series about Black soldiers during World War II. He also appeared on "Good Times," The Rockford Files," the "Bewitched" spinoff "Tabitha," "The Love Boat," "Matlock," and "The Golden Girls." His longest running role was on the spy comedy "Scarecrow and Mrs. King." His last role was in the film "Made in America" with Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg. Stewart died in 2002 from Alzheimer's disease at the age of 72.

Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur played Edith's feminist cousin Maude. We all know Maude went on to have her own self-titled spinoff, much like the Jeffersons, but not everyone may know her "All in the Family" roots all that well. On that show, Maude is, unsurprisingly, one of Archie's antagonists. The two often butt heads, though unlike Lionel, who laughs and lets Archie's ignorance slide with a quip, Maude fights back and makes her points known. Archie doesn't always respond well to this. Maude appears in one episode of Season 1, in which she takes care of the entire household while they're sick, and one episode in Season 2, which serves as a backdoor pilot for "Maude."

Arthur started her career on stage, like many actors of the era. She won a Tony Award in 1966 for best featured actress in a musical for her role in "Mame." After "All in the Family" and "Maude," Arthur went on to star on "The Golden Girls," after which she took on smaller spots and guest appearances for the rest of her career. Arthur worked on "Futurama," "Malcolm in the Middle," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and even returned to Broadway for a 2002 show, "Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends." Arthur died in 2009 from lung cancer at the age of 86.

Bob Hastings

Bob Hastings played Archie's friend Tommy Kelsey, who owns the bar Archie frequents. Though the bar in question is called Kelcy's, Hastings' character is credited as both Kelcy and Kelsey in the end credits of the show, probably due to an error. As the place where Archie can go to relax and have a drink, Kelcy's is his home away from home — so much so that when Tommy puts the place up for sale, Archie mortgages his own house to buy it. This catalyzes the transition from "All in the Family" to the spinoff series "Archie Bunker's Place."

The Brooklyn-born Hastings started his acting career on the radio, where he played Archie Andrews in a 1945 show based on Archie Comics. He transitioned to television soon after and appeared on "Sergeant Bilko," "Hogan's Heroes," "Green Acres," "McHale's Navy," and "Dennis the Menace." His TV career continued into the realm of soap operas in the '80s, playing Captain Ramsey on "General Hospital." In the '90s, he turned to voice acting, a mirror of his early radio days. Hastings voiced Commissioner Gordon (among other, smaller roles) on "Batman: The Animated Series," and appeared throughout the rest of the DC Animated Universe. Hastings died in 2014 from prostate cancer at the age of 89.

Jason Wingreen

Another face audiences often see at Kelcy's is that of Jason Wingreen, who played the bartender, Harry Snowden. Harry and Archie are friends, but they clash when the bar goes up for sale. Harry wants to buy it for himself, but Archie comes up with the money first. Their rivalry is short-lived, however, as Harry stays on as bartender when the place eventually becomes Archie's. Harry and Archie even become business partners, though they have a lot of conflict throughout the run of "Archie Bunker's Place."

A native New Yorker and theater actor, Wingreen helped found Greenwich Village's Circle in the Square Theatre. He also voiced Boba Fett in 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back," though his voice was replaced for the 2004 DVD release to be in continuity with 2002's "Attack of the Clones." Wingreen also enjoyed long stints on "Matlock," and played Dr. Brody in "Airplane!" His final roles were a bit part on an episode of "Seinfeld" and a small role on an episode of "In the Heat of the Night." Wingreen died in 2015 at the age of 95.

Gloria LeRoy

Gloria LeRoy played Mildred "Boom Boom" Turner, a middle-aged secretary at the plant where Archie works. Archie and his friend Stretch gawk at her and come up with her signature nickname, but she tells them off. Eventually, she and Archie become friends. She later starts working as a waitress at Archie's bar.

There is a plethora of famous names among LeRoy's friends and family. Her brother was the first Bernardo in Broadway's "West Side Story," and their parents were vaudeville veterans. Early in her career, LeRoy enjoyed a number of roles on stage, and acted as a teen alongside Jackie Gleason on Broadway. She had roles on a number of soap operas, including "Days of Our Lives," "The Young and the Restless," and "Passions." She also had bit spots on "Married ... with Children," "Three's Company," "Frasier," and, most recently, Showtime's "Shameless" and HBO's "Getting On." Le Roy died in 2018 at the age of 92.

Sammy Davis Jr.

Obviously, megastar Sammy Davis Jr. was not a regular actor on "All in the Family," but he probably made the most notable guest appearance in the show's entire run. In the episode entitled "Sammy's Visit," Archie moonlights as a cab driver. Sammy Davis Jr. plays himself and leaves a briefcase in Archie's cab by accident. Davis arrives at the Bunker house to retrieve it, much to everyone's delight, and has to wait around for the cab company to bring it over.  While everyone sits around having a coffee, Davis learns from Edith, Gloria, and Mike just how prejudiced Archie can be. The big laugh comes at the end of the episode, when Davis asks to take a picture with Archie and plants a big kiss on his cheek, shocking the bigoted Archie into silence. 

This moment allegedly brought on a famously long bout of laughter from the studio audience. Davis returned for another cameo on "Archie Bunker's Place," in which Archie saves him from choking on a piece of steak. Davis himself died in 1990 from throat cancer at the age of 64.

Danny Dayton

A relative latecomer to "All in the Family" Danny Dayton started appearing semi-regularly on the show as Archie's buddy Hank Pivnik starting midway into Season 7 and continued portraying the character through Season 1 of "Archie Bunker's Place." Though perhaps not the most famous "All in the Family" character, Hank is notable for introducing the Bunker family patriarch to the pep pills that briefly turn Archie into an amphetamine addict in the serious-minded Season 8 two-parter "Archie's Bitter Pill."

Dayton's career as a television and film actor extends well beyond "All in the Family." Before and during his time as Hank, he appeared on "Get Smart," "Columbo," "Charlie's Angels," and "Wonder Woman." He went on play guest roles on "M*A*S*H," "CHiPs," "Police Squad!," and quite a few other shows. Dayton remained active in TV for his entire life, guesting on "The Nanny" and "Mad About You" two years before his death from emphysema in 1999 at the age of 75.

Norman Lear

Though he never acted on "All in the Family," creator and executive producer Norman Lear was obviously indispensable to the show. You could even go a step farther and say he was essential to an entire era of primetime network TV comedy. Lear also helped dream up "The Jeffersons" and "Maude," and executive produced a handful of other television hits of the 1970s and 1980s including "One Day at a Time," "Sanford and Son," "Good Times," and "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." At one point, according to his obituary in The Hollywood Reporter, Lear was responsible for three of the four top-rated TV shows in the country.

Lear caught his big break all the way back in the 1950s penning jokes for Rat Pack affiliates Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Younger folks might be more familiar with his work collaborating with director and onetime "All in the Family" star Rob Reiner; THR notes Lear had a hand in Reiner's classic films "This is Spinal Tap" and "Stand by Me," along with "The Princess Bride," in which Lear is a credited executive producer. 

The Oscar-nominated, multi-time Emmy-winning TV Hall of Famer passed away December 5, 2023, at the age of 101.