Larry Stewart, a veteran TV director-writer-producer and founding president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, died Wednesday of a bacterial infection and heart failure at Northridge Valley Hospital in Van Nuys. He was 67.
Stewart became the first president of ATAS when the Hollywood organization split from the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1977.
Under his leadership, the fledgling Academy managed not only to assert its autonomy, but also to wrest control of the national Emmy telecast from its parent org. Stewart called the 1977 Emmy telecast “a celebration that Emmy has come home where she belongs.”
He began his career in show business as a child actor, playing the original Video Ranger in “Captain Video.”
Stewart directed more than 200 episodes of primetime TV, including such shows as “Perry Mason,” “The Waltons,” “Police Woman,” “The Bionic Woman” and “Fantasy Island.” He also produced, wrote and directed the series “Thrill Seekers,” hosted by Chuck Connors.
As supervising producer of KNBC’s documentary unit, he was awarded four Los Angeles-area Emmy awards for writing, directing and producing.
In 1975, Stewart was elected to a two-year term as president of the Hollywood chapter of NATAS.
Over the next year, as relations between NATAS and its Hollywood chapter deteriorated, he played a major role in the creation of ATAS as a separate org. His stated goal in 1977 was to “give the Hollywood creative community an academy … which will make you proud to be a member.”
Though he was active within the TV community, Stewart maintained a low profile in public. At the 1977 Emmycast, he chose to make the customary president’s remarks off the air, because he felt that “people in middle America weren’t interested to hear from a man they never heard of talking about things they wouldn’t understand.”
In 1995, Stewart was awarded the Syd Cassyd Founders Award by ATAS in recognition of his long and distinguished service to the organization.
He is survived by his wife, Susan, as well as two daughters and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday at ATAS’ Academy Plaza Theater in North Hollywood. For information, call (818) 754-2800.