Will Geer (Will Geer)

Will Geer

Actor. He is best remembered for his role of ‘Zebulon “Grandpa” Walton’ on the television series, “The Waltons” (1972 to 1981; his death was written into the drama in a special two hour episode, “The Empty Nest”). Born William Auge Ghere in Frankfort, Indiana, he studied botany, obtaining a BS degree at the University of Chicago and a MS degree from Columbia University, but found acting to be his true love.  He began with a touring company, and over the course of sixty years, acted in Broadway, movies, and television, including Shakespearean roles and one-person performances as Walt Whitman and Mark Twain.  He changed his last name from Ghere to Geer, because it “was simpler to spell.” However, few persons knew of his lifelong role of political agitator and radical.  As a young boy growing up, he became a boyhood friend with Harry Hay, who later became a Communist radical and founded the first large gay activist organization, the Mattachine Society.  His interest in liberal politics resulted in his being blacklisted in Hollywood in 1951.  During those difficult times of unemployment, he built the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, California, as an acting haven for himself and many of his fellow blacklisted actors.  There he not only did plays and coached actors, but held political and philosophical discussions, and folk singing.  Coming out of those dark years to reenter Hollywood, he played small roles in such movies as “Advise and Consent” (1962), “The Crucible” (1967), “In Cold Blood” (1967), “The Reivers” (1969), “Jeremiah Johnson” (1972), and “Executive Action” (1973), and made numerous television appearances.  At times, his personal political philosophy was difficult to pin down (other than liberal), and it often appeared that he preferred to just be an agitator, to shake things up and to get people to rethink their own political positions on issues of the day.  At his death bed, it is reported that his family sang, “This Land is Your Land” and recited Robert Frost poems.  He once described himself as “I am a lifelong agitator, a radical.  A rebel is just against things for rebellion’s sake.  By radical, I mean someone who goes to the roots.” (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson)  Family links:  Spouse:  Herta Ware (1917 – 2005)Cause of death: Respiratory Arrest

Born

  • March, 09, 1902
  • USA

Died

  • April, 04, 1978
  • USA

Cause of Death

  • Respiratory Arrest

Cemetery

  • Will Geer Estate
  • California
  • USA

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