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Jerry McNeely, Creator of ‘Owen Marshall,’ Dies at 86

Jerry McNeely, Emmy-nominated television writer and creator of series including “Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law,” died Monday in Tarzana, Calif. He was 86 and had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for several years.

McNeely was one of TV’s busiest writers in the 1960s and ’70s, penning multiple episodes of “Dr. Kildare,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Ironside,” “The Name of the Game” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” He also created and wrote multiple episodes of the lawyer series “Owen Marshall,” the high-school-teacher series “Lucas Tanner” and the family drama “Three for the Road.”

In the 1980s, he developed and produced the medical series “Trauma Center” and produced the family drama “Our House.” He also wrote individual scripts for such popular series as “The Twilight Zone,” “Mr. Novak,” “The Virginian,” “The Streets of San Francisco” and “McMillan and Wife.”

McNeely received Emmy and Humanitas nominations for writing the 1977 TV movie “Something for Joey,” based on the true story of a Penn State football player and his younger brother, who had leukemia.
He also directed episodes of “Owen Marshall,” “Lucas Tanner” and “Paris.”

McNeely was born in Cape Girardeau, Mo. He received his B.A. from Southeast Missouri State College, then attended the University of Wisconsin, where he received an M.S. degree and – after Army service during the Korean War – a Ph.D. in speech.

He joined the University of Wisconsin speech faculty in 1956 and eventually received a full professorship. An avid musician, he produced and directed numerous plays and musicals with the Wisconsin players (and eventually wrote lyrics for songs in several of the TV shows he wrote).

McNeely wrote his first teleplay, “The Staring Match,” for “Studio One” in 1957, and won a contest with his script “The Joke and the Valley,” which “Hallmark Hall of Fame” produced in 1961. His later longform scripts included “The Critical List,” “Fighting Back,” “Tomorrow’s Child,” “Sin of Innocence” and “When You Remember Me.”

In an unusual situation, McNeely remained on the University of Wisconsin faculty throughout his prolific period of the 1960s, writing long distance and occasionally commuting. He finally resigned from the university and moved to California to pursue TV writing and producing in 1975.

Survivors include his wife Ellen Shenker McNeely; four children, Melissa, Betsy, Joel and Ian McNeely; and two grandchildren.

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