O’Connor first attracted attention as Major General Colt in the 1970 movie Kelly’s Heroes. The following year he found fame as the bigoted working man Archie Bunker, the main character in the 1970s CBS television sitcoms All in the Family (1971 to 1979) and Archie Bunker’s Place (1979 to 1983). O’Connor later starred in the NBC/CBS television crime drama In the Heat of the Night from 1988 to 1995, where he played the role of southern Police Chief William (Bill) Gillespie. At the end of his career in the late 1990s, he played the father of Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt) on Mad About You.
O’Connor’s first career of choice was journalism, but the outbreak of World War II inspired him to enlist in the Navy, where he was rejected. He enrolled instead in the Merchant Marine Academy, then changed his mind and became a merchant seaman.
In 1971, O’Connor took on a starring role in the sitcom All in the Family, which became the highest-rated television program in America for five years. In 1968, ABC Television, which had the first rights to the series, financed production of two pilot episodes of All in The Family then under the title Those Were the Days. But the network’s trepidation about the program’s socially controversial content led ABC to reject the show. Producer Norman Lear sold the series to CBS. The sitcom addressed many societal issues, from racism to religious diversity. O’Connor became the top-billing star of the 1970’s, and went on to win four Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, in 1972, 1977, 1978, and 1979. The series was finally canceled in 1979.
O’Connor went on to reprise his role as Archie Bunker in the show Archie Bunker’s Place, which ran from 1979 to 1983. In early 1988, O’Connor starred as the chief of police in the film In the Heat of the Night. During this time he was dealing with his son’s drug addiction problems as well as his own health issues. In 1989 he underwent open-heart surgery.
In 1995 lost his son to a tragic suicide after the young man’s battle with drug addiction. Three years later, O’Connor underwent heart surgery for the second time to reduce the risk of a stroke. In March of 2000, O’Connor received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his great television success.
On June 21, 2001, Carroll O’Connor died of a heart attack in Culver City, California. The heart attack was brought on from complications of diabetes.