Seymour Wishman, a longtime producer, writer, legal expert and president of First Run Features, died on Jan. 29 at a family home in Bridgewater, Conn., his daughter Samantha confirmed to Variety. He was 79.

Over the past 38 years, Wishman had served as president of First Run Features. During his time at the N.Y.-based independent film distribution company, Wishman brought Michael Apted’s “28 Up” (and later the entire “Up” series) to the United States and helped Ross McElwee finish and release “Sherman’s March” — as well as McElwee’s other films, including “Bright Leaves” and “Six O’Clock News.” Wishman also released Spike Lee’s “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads” (the director’s first feature film and his graduate school thesis), Cheryl Dunye’s “The Watermelon Woman,” Jan Svankmajer’s “Alice” and many other independent pictures.

On the production side, Seymour co-directed and produced “Sex & Justice,” a documentary on Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings. He also produced “Shakespeare’s Women & Claire Bloom,” a documentary that looked into the life of Claire Bloom, an actor who performed multiple leading and supporting roles in William Shakespeare plays.

“In the films that he distributed there is, I think, a common sense of humanity — and some optimism, outrage certainly of injustice, but a belief that through truth and through art you could make a better world,” said Wishman’s daughter Samantha, who is also a producer and screenwriter. “He always said, ‘The most important thing is to feel like you’re doing something worthwhile’ … And I always tried to emulate that.”

Multiple filmmakers who worked with Wishman shared memories of the late First Run Features president and expressed the impact that he had on their lives, too.

“Seymour Wishman was instrumental in launching and nourishing the independent documentary movement in the U.S. He took on the films of Black, Latino, Asian, Jewish [and] LGBT filmmakers, as well as the occasional lost Southerner who showed up with an overlong movie about nuclear weapons proliferation and the possibilities of romantic love in the South. I will miss his warmth and sense of humor,” McElwee said in a statement.

“He took four of my films over a decade and his enthusiasm and passion for each was sheer pleasure for me… Seymour was funny, courtly, abrasive, loyal, opinionated; he was a New Yorker and a truth teller. He will be greatly missed,” stated documentary filmmaker Josh Aronson.

Wishman, a son of Jewish immigrants, was born in the South Bronx and raised in Newark, N.J. He attended college and law school at Rutgers University. Seymour later spent two years in Lima, Peru as a legal advisor to the Peace Corps. The attorney then went on to practice criminal law in New York and New Jersey. In 1977, Wishman headed to the White House — where he became deputy assistant to President Jimmy Carter in the Office of the Public Liaison.

Samantha noted the impactful reach of her father’s blend of his passion for creative production and his background in law.

“He was creative and a writer, that was his soul, but he also was a lawyer. And to be in distribution, particularly of independent films, I think it took both sides of his personality,” said Samantha. “His clients were the filmmakers and he was an advocate for their best interests.”

In addition to his careers in film and law, Wishman published multiple books. He is the author of “Confessions of a Criminal Lawyer,” “Anatomy of a Jury” and “Question of Consent.” He also practiced painting and sculpting.

“Writing has always been an important balance. It was an opportunity to be a little bit more reflective and solitary at the same time, somewhat creative,” Wishman said in his 1978 White House exit interview, when discussing an upcoming novel.

Marc Mauceri, previously VP at First Run Features, will now succeed Wishman as president. Samantha, who has known Mauceri her whole life, added that the “whole family is thrilled” that he’ll be following her father’s footsteps.

In addition to his daughter Samantha, Wishman is survived by his wife, Nancy Burr Evans, and his brother Harvey Wishman.