Jerry D. Melton, head of Hollywood High’s storied, award-winning theater department from 1968 to ’92, died Thursday July 18 of fast-moving liver cancer at his North Hollywood home. He was 69.
Critics had called his productions of “Hello, Dolly,” “Cabaret” and others as virtually professional. A testimonial planned to honor him in 2003 was moved up to the Tuesday before he died, at which time one of the school’s auditoria was named for him, as was a scholarship.
O’Brien, Texas, native got his B.A. at North Texas U., and served in the Army while pursuing acting and entertaining. His older brother, Orbin, had become a VP at Disney, and Melton joined him in L.A. during the 1950s to be an actor and director. He met his future wife Ruthe while working at the old Players’ Ring Gallery in what is now West Hollywood. She in turn coordinated costumes for class productions at Hollywood High, from which she, her parents and the Meltons’ kids also attended.
Melton helped develop the L.A. school district’s Performing Arts Magnet Program and became director-coordinator of the Hollywood High magnet itself. After he retired 10 years ago, he became an artistic director at the Stella Adler Theater Academy and did acting and voiceover work.
Besides his wife, he is survived by two sons, film production designer Gregory and film property master Steven; a daughter, Los Angeles mag senior editor Mary; and five grandchildren. Another daughter, Kathleen, died in 1996.