Happy Birthday Carroll O’Connor: Remembering the Man Behind ‘All in the Family’s Archie Bunker

by Joe Rutland

Carroll O’Connor made a name for himself on TV with Archie Bunker on “All in the Family.” Outsiders, let’s take a minute to remember him.

O’Connor, who was born on Aug. 2, 1924, played the irascible Bunker for nine seasons on the CBS sitcom. He also played Bunker in the show’s spin-off, “Archie Bunker’s Place,” for four seasons. But O’Connor the man was nothing like his famed TV character.

Bunker’s mentality was quite conservative and confrontational. “All in the Family” broke a lot of barriers when it debuted in 1971 and throughout its run. In real life, though, O’Connor leaned more toward a liberal democratic mindset.

The character was quite bigoted and not shy about talking down about other races of people. Maybe the most-remembered putdown of Bunker’s was aimed at Mike Stivic [Rob Reiner] who was tabbed as “Meathead.”

‘All in the Family’ Star Had Appearances On Other TV Shows, Movies

Yet O’Connor’s career was broad and vast beyond playing Bunker. He had guest appearances on TV shows like “The Untouchables,” “Bonanza,” “The Outer Limits,” and “Gunsmoke.” As for his movie career, O’Connor showed up in “Lonely Are The Brave,” “In Harm’s Way,” and “Cleopatra,” among others.

After he finished playing Bunker in two TV series, Carroll O’Connor took on the role of Police Chief Bill Gillespie in the TV version of “In the Heat of the Night.” Rod Steiger had played that role in the movie version. His son, Hugh O’Connor, was cast as Officer Lonnie Jamison.

His personal life, though, suffered a serious loss when Hugh committed suicide on March 28, 1995, after battling lifelong drug addiction. Carroll O’Connor turned into an advocate for those in need of substance abuse help. O’Connor also went on national TV and point-blank named his son’s drug dealer by name. He also went on to do public service advertisements for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Suicide Of O’Connor’s Son Haunted Actor For Rest of His Life

But his son’s death haunted him for the rest of his life. O’Connor died on June 21, 2001, at 76 years old. He suffered a heart attack due to complications from diabetes.

A devout Catholic who attended Mass daily, O’Connor’s funeral was attended by his best friend, actor Larry Hagman. Others included “All in the Family” stars Reiner, Sally Struthers, and Danielle Brisebois. Jean Stapleton could not attend due to a stage commitment.

O’Connor earned three Golden Globe Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and two NAACP Image Awards.

Today, we at Outsider honor Carroll O’Connor on his birthday. His career was far more than Archie Bunker, but he’s most remembered solely for his work on “All in the Family.” Happy birthday to a television legend indeed.