Judge Joseph Wapner, who starred on The People’s Court, has died at the age of 97, TMZ reports.
Wapner was hospitalized last week with breathing problems and died Sunday in Los Angeles after his condition worsened, according to TMZ. He had been in hospice care before his death.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Wapner Was Born in California & Received the Purple Heart & Bronze Star While Serving in the Army During World War II
Joseph Wapner was born on November 19, 1919, in Los Angeles California to Jewish parents who immigrated to the United States from Romania.
He attended Hollywood High School.
Wapner served in the South Pacific during World War II. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star during his time in Cebu. He was honorable discharged from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant.
While on Cebu, an island in the Philippines, he was wounded by shrapnel from a grenade, according to the Washington Post. He also risked his life to save a wounded soldier from machine gun fire, according to the Post.
2. Wapner, a USC Grad, Was a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles County for 18 Years Before Retiring & Working in TV
Before heading to serve in World War II, Wapner attended the University of Southern California, graduating in 1941. When he returned from the war, he went to USC Law School, graduating in 1948.
He worked as an attorney before being appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court as a judge in 1959 by Governor Pat Brown. He moved on to the Los Angeles County Superior Court two years later, and served as a judge there for 18 years before retiring.
Wapner’s career as a TV judge began in 1981, two years after his retirement from the Superior Court bench.
3. He Appeared in More Than 2,300 Episodes of ‘The People’s Court’
Wapner appeared in 2,340 episodes of The People’s Court from 1981 to 1993, conducting binding arbitration with two parties. The show was styled to appear like a small claims court, with the two sides facing off without attorneys.
The show led to several other syndicated reality courtroom shows, including Judge Judy.
The original version of the show was cancelled in 1993 due to declining ratings. It was revived in 1997 with Judge Ed Koch. Judge Jerry Sheindlin later replaced Koch. Judge Marilyn Milian has been the star of the show since 2001.
4. He Is Survived by His Wife of 70 Years, Mickey, & Had 3 Children
Wapner is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mickey, and his two sons, David and Fred. His daughter, Sarah, died of heart disease in 2015 at the age of 56.
Both of his sons became attorneys, and his son Fred also became a judge in Los Angeles County in 1997. David has worked as an environmental consultant in Israel.
Wapner and his wife met in 1946 while he was in law school at the University of Southern California and she as a journalist, according to People.
5. He Received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009
Wapner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009.
That same year, Wapner returned to The People’s Court to celebrate his 90th birthday.
He is also the author of two books, A View From the Bench and Judge Wapner’s Guide to Small Claims Court.