Washington D.C. – People For the American Way is mourning the death of its founder Norman Lear, who remained an active board member until his death on Dec. 5, 2023. Lear died at home, surrounded by loved ones, at the age of 101.
“We are heartbroken,” said People For the American Way President Svante Myrick. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Norman’s wife Lyn and their entire family, and to the many people who, like us, loved Norman.
“Norman loved this country, and he loved defending its ideals,” said Myrick. “We will honor Norman by carrying on the work to which he dedicated so much of his life.
Lear was a legendary, groundbreaking television and film producer. He founded People For the American Way in 1981 to mobilize Americans in defense of constitutional values he saw being threatened by leaders of the emerging religious right political movement, recruiting the late Rep. Barbara Jordan and other civic, religious, civil rights, and business leaders to join him
For more than 40 years, Lear worked with People For the American Way to mobilize public support and activism on behalf of freedom of expression, religious pluralism, and equality and justice for all. He celebrated People For the American Way’s contributions to advances like marriage equality and the historic confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson, and he raised his voice against censorship, antisemitism, and the rising threat of authoritarianism. He was inspired by members of People For’s Young Elected Officials Network who gave him hope for the country’s future. He was fond of saying that when he picked up the newspaper each day, he found himself exclaiming, “Thank God there is a People For the American Way.
“Pushing back on bigotry, resisting voter suppression, exposing extremism, making our communities safer—these are not things I can do effectively on my own,” Lear wrote to People For members last year. “But through People For the American Way, I partner with fellow Americans to defend our freedom wherever and whenever it is at risk.
“Norman knew the power of culture to generate conversation, reach hearts, and change minds—and he was a master at using that power for good,” said People For the American Way Board co-chair and longtime Lear confidante Lara Bergthold.
Lear was a World War II combat 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.
“I thank God for Norman Lear,” said Rev. Timothy McDonald, People For the American Way Board co-chair and founder of the African American Ministers Leadership Council. “Norman refused to allow the radical religious right to claim ownership of faith, flag, and freedom. He fought to make this country a place where equality and justice were truly available to all the people.
Among the many honors Lear received recognizing his contributions to American cultural and civic life were the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, five Emmy Awards, and two prestigious Peabody Awards. He was an inaugural inductee into the Television Academy Hall of Fame
“Our loss is also our country’s loss,” said Cookie Parker, chair of the affiliated People For the American Way Foundation. “Now his work is our work, and the work of the young progressive leaders who gave Norman hope for America’s future.”
About People For the American Way
People For the American Way, a national progressive advocacy organization, inspires and mobilizes community and cultural leaders to advance Truth, Justice and the American Way. We convene courageous Americans, produce compelling media and organize campaigns to defend our democracy from authoritarian threats and advance America’s promise that everyone will enjoy freedom, safety and a vote that counts. We are honored that Lear designated People For the American Way to receive contributions in his honor. Individuals who wish to donate may do so here: Remembering Norman. Learn more about how we’re honoring Norman’s legacy here.