Oprah Winfrey took a moment Wednesday night to honor television icon Norman Lear who passed away Tuesday at the age of 101.
Talking with ET’s Kevin Frazier from the purple carpet premiere of The Color Purple, Winfrey, 69, paid homage to the TV producer and creator behind shows like One Day At A Time and The Jeffersons.
“He was one of the grand gentlemen of our time,” Winfrey told ET. “I’ve had so much respect for him, I’ve interviewed him multiple times.”
“I mean, in the very beginning, the 70s, his shows are what started the conversation about race and justice — All in the Family, The Jeffersons — in a way that America had not been prepared to [discuss] before,” the former TV host said.
Lear was best known for his ability to craft comedy shows — like those mentioned by Winfrey — that did not shy away from major and serious topics including racism, sexism, divorce, rape and depression.
“His impact and his legacy will be felt for generations to come. Even people who are not familiar with his shows are experiencing the benefits of what those shows did for us as a culture,” Winfrey said.
The television writer and producer had a seven-decade career in Hollywood that also included the writing and producing of iconic shows like Maude, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Good Times, The Baxters, Silver Spoons and The Facts of Life.
During a celebration of The Jeffersons‘ 40th anniversary back in 2015, former Morehouse College President Dr. John Silvanus Wilson Jr. said Lear “showed America 40 years ago that Black Lives Matter.”
“He opened the eyes of millions of Americans when it came to civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights, all by making us laugh about it heartily so that we can think about it differently. Norman Lear is and will always be, in TV and race relations, a pioneer,” Wilson Jr. said at the time.
On Wednesday, Lara Bergthold, a spokeswoman for the Lear family, told ET in a statement that Lear died “after a lifetime of laughter” on Tuesday, at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes.
“Thank you for the moving outpouring of love and support in honor of our wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. Norman lived a life of creativity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all. Knowing and loving him has been the greatest of gifts. We ask for your understanding as we mourn privately in celebration of this remarkable human being,” the Lear family shared in a statement.
Lear is survived by his wife, Lyn Davis Lear; his six children — Ellen Lear, Kate Lear, Maggie Lear, Ben Lear, Madeline Lear, Brianna Lear; and his four grandchildren — Daniel, Noah, Griffin and Zoe.
Following his death, tributes from his Hollywood friends were quick to roll in, honoring the writer and producer for his dedication to the entertainment industry.
To see some of the tributes from Lear’s peers, including Jennifer Aniston, Jimmy Kimmel and George Clooney, check out the links below.