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Al Burton, ‘Jeffersons’ and ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ Producer, Dies at 91

Television producer and executive Al Burton, known for his work on “The Jeffersons” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” died Tuesday at his home in San Mateo, Calif. He was 91.

Burton leaves behind a six-decade legacy of hit television shows that also included “One Day at a Time,” “Silver Spoons,” “Square Pegs” and “Facts of Life.”

However, long before Burton started working with producer Norman Lear on several television hits, Burton was a student at Northwestern University where he completed his degree in 1948. In 1970, he teamed up with Lear to co-create the soap opera farce titled, “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and continued to work alongside the television legend at T.A.T Communications/Tandem Productions, producing and creating  a number of successful network sitcoms.

Burton also developed and executive produced for Universal Television, helping to create “Charles in Charge,” a series starring Scott Baio, and the series “The New Lassie,” which starred Dee Wallace. Burton also earned an Emmy for executive producing “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” a game show starring Ben Stein as a host that aired on Comedy Central from 1997 to 2002.

Off the small screen, Burton continued to hone his storytelling ability with music, becoming an accomplished composer after co-writing and composing the themes for “Facts of Life,” “Together We Stand,” “Nothing Is Easy,” “Charles In Charge,” “The New Lassie,” “Turn on Ben Stein” and “Diff’rent Strokes.”

Burton also helped discover young break-out stars George Clooney (“Facts of Life”), Sarah Jessica Parker (“Square Pegs”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“The New Lassie”), mentoring countless youth pursuing the television industry, teaching them the skills to be successful.

One youth that benefited from Burton’s mentorship is Academy award and Emmy award-winning documentary television producer Arnold Shapiro. He also championed youth through the creation of the television show “Spotlight on Youth.” Additionally, Burton highlighted young women through his beauty pageants “Miss Teen USA” and “Miss Teen International,” which were hosted across the country.

He is survived by his wife Sally Burton, his daughter Jennifer Werbe, his son-in-law Tom Werbe, and his two grandchildren and two great-grand children.

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