All in the Family and The Jeffersons were trailblazing sitcoms in the 1970s and 1980s. Tonight, both are being rebooted for one night on television, live with an all-star cast recreating original episodes of the shows. When it comes to All in the Family, the original cast members who played the characters Archie and Edith Bunker were actors Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton. O’Connor played the role of Archie, while Stapleton played his wife Edith.
The show aired from 1971 until 1979 and both actors lived well beyond the years of the sitcom.
Jean Stapleton died of natural causes on May 31, 2013, while O’Connor’s cause of death is reported to be diabetes, according to CNN. O’Connor was 76 years old when he passed away, in 2001, and Stapleton was 90 when she died. Upon Stapleton’s death, All in the Family creator Norman Lear stated, “No one gave more profound ‘how to be a human being’ lessons than Jean Stapleton … Goodbye Edith, darling.”
O’Connor died in Culver City, California, on June 21, 2001, from a heart attack because of complications from diabetes. According to Deseret News, Rob Reiner, who played O’Connor’s son-in-law on All in the Family, compared O’Connor to his character Archie, saying, “He was stubborn, just like Archie. But stubborn for the right things, to push for quality in the shows and to make sure that certain ideas were exposed in a meaningful way. He was much more soft-spoken, a much gentler person.”
And, Stapleton described her former co-star as this, “He was one of the most intelligent and generous people I have ever worked with. When I have the occasion to catch a rerun, I am reminded of his marvelous talent and humor.”
One year before his death, in 2000, O’Connor received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The character of Edith Bunker actually died on the All in the Family spinoff series Archie Bunker’s Place, in a sad episode titled Archie Alone. Edith only appeared on five episodes and her cause of death was a stroke. Her death was discussed in the season 2 premiere of the show and Archie grieved before going on to date others.
Nancy O’Connor, the real-life wife of O’Connor, lived until 2014, passing away at the age of 84, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She had battled Alzheimer’s disease for about a decade, up to her death.
When it comes to any similarities between O’Connor’s widow and his on-screen wife, University of Montana President George Dennison said, “Not at all. Nancy was very outspoken, and she had firm opinions about things. Usually, they were the kinds of opinions that you could agree with because they were the right thing to do. A great person.”
Together, O’Connor and his wife had only one son, an adopted boy named Hugh, who committed suicide in 1995, when he was just 33 years old.