A Tribute to Our Founder Norman Lear

A Tribute to Our Founder Norman Lear

People For the American Way is proud to celebrate the life and accomplishments of our founder Norman Lear, who died at the age of 101 on December 5, 2023. ​ 

“Norman loved this country, and he loved defending its ideals,” said People For the American Way President Svante Myrick.  “We will honor Norman by carrying on the work to which he dedicated so much of his life.” 

Read the press statement we issued upon his passing.

We are honored that Lear designated People For the American Way to receive contributions in his honor. 

Activist, Citizen, Patriot

Norman Lear founded People For the American Way in 1981 to counter the divisive rhetoric and authoritarian agenda being spread by leaders of the emerging religious right political movement.

Recruiting like-minded friends and colleagues, including the late Rep. Barbara Jordan and other civic, religious, civil rights, and business leaders, Lear fought tirelessly for the progressive values he believed defined the American way. For decades he participated in campaigns for voting rights, LGBTQ equality, the freedom to learn, and more.

Visionary, Writer, Icon

Norman Lear was a legendary television and film producer behind visionary shows like All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Good Times. His shows weren’t just popular – they fostered countless conversations about important social issues, including racism, LGBTQ rights, and abortion. His shows broke new ground on representation and inclusion, changing the face of television in part by changing the faces that were on television. 


A Patriot Who Fought Fascism

Lear was a World War II veteran who dropped out of college to fight fascism and considered himself an unabashedly patriotic American. “I am a patriot,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published on his 99th birthday, “and I will not surrender that word to those who play to our worst impulses rather than our highest ideals.”

An old photo of a group of soldiers posing in front of a plane during World War Two.
Norman Lear (top right) posing with fellow servicemembers during WWII.

Lear was fond of saying, “There’s not a single day that I don’t pick up the newspaper and think, ‘Thank God, we have People For the American Way.’” He was deeply troubled about the threat posed by authoritarianism, writing in a New York Times op ed published on his 100th birthday, “To be honest, I’m a bit worried that I may be in better shape than our democracy is.”

Tributes Have Been Pouring In

We’ve been overwhelmed and uplifted by the outpouring of tributes that pay homage to Norman’s love for this country and his life’s work making it a welcoming place for all. Read a sample of some of our favorite press coverage and remembrances here.

Help Us Continue Norman Lear’s Legacy

People For the American Way is proud to continue the work to which Lear devoted so much of his life. We are grateful for his confidence, and your support, which allows us to defend our democracy from authoritarian threats and advance America’s promise that everyone will enjoy freedom, justice, and a vote that counts.