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Norman Lear to receive Hefner Foundation Lifetime Achievement award

City News Service | 5/14/2013, 5 p.m.

Television and movie producer Norman Lear will receive a lifetime achievement award May 22 at the Playboy Mansion for his defense of values embodied by the Bill of Rights, the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation announced today.

The awards, begun in 1979 by Christie Hefner, honor people who help protect and enhance First Amendment rights in journalism, government, book publishing and education.

A reception with the winners, judges and special presenters will be held May 22 at the Playboy Mansion, where the winners will get a $5,000 cash award and a commemorative plaque.

Lear, whose characters such as "All in the Family's" Archie Bunker parodied fading American stereotypes, is being honored in part for "his commitment to nurturing a new generation of young leaders fighting for the American Way."

In 1981, Lear formed People for the American Way, a nonprofit group that supports the Bill of Rights and monitors violations of constitutional freedoms.

Aside from classic shows such as "All in the Family," Lear, 90, produced or wrote "Sanford and Son," "One Day at a Time," "The Jeffersons," "Good Times" and "Maude."

The New Haven, Conn., native dropped out of Emerson College in Boston in 1942 to join the Air Force, serving as a radio operator and gunner during World War II on a B-17 "Flying Fortress." He flew 52 missions and was awarded the Air Medal.

In the 1950s, Lear and writing partner Ed Simmons created comedy sketches for Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin and others, eventually becoming producer of NBC's "The Martha Raye Show." He created his first television show, "The Deputy" starring Henry Fonda, in 1959.

In the 1960s, he wrote and produced movies such as "Divorce American Style," for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

In 1971, Lear brought "All in the Family" to television.

More recently, the four-time Emmy winner was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Bill Clinton.

Other award winners named by the Hefner foundation include Jessica Ahlquist, a Rhode Island high school student being honored in the education category for her successful lawsuit over a prayer banner in her high school.

Four journalists who created the Freedom of the Press Foundation to support groups and people who publish leaks will share the award in the journalism category. One of them is Daniel Ellsberg, best known for giving the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971.

In the government category, retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis is being honored. The former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay from 2005 to 2007 resigned over political interference in the trials by the Bush administration and pressure to use evidence obtained by torture. He later spoke out publicly against detaining terror suspects in the prison.