Jack Shea dies, leaves legacy of TV directing and Catholic values

Jack Shea dies: A TV sitcom director, Jack Shea and his wife were co-founders of Catholics In Media Associates. Shea promoted racial diversity, and directed 'The Jeffersons,' 'Silver Spoons,' and other TV shows. 

Courtsey Directors Guild of America
Jack Shea during a 2002 interview about the history of the Directors Guild of America.

There's no question that Jack Shea left his mark on the television industry.

But his influence went beyond being a successful Hollywood director of many popular TV shows, especially sitcoms. He was also a three-time president of the Directors Guild of America, promoting racial and gender equity. Early in his career, he helped organize the Radio & Television Directors Guild in New York.

“Jack Shea occupied a truly unique position in the history of the modern DGA.  As the West Coast president of the Radio & Television Directors Guild in 1960, he was at the table sitting across from Frank Capra when the two guilds representing television and theatrical directors merged to form the modern Directors Guild of America,” said Taylor Hackford in a statement.  “Beloved by his fellow directors, the DGA membership and the DGA staff, he always had a ready smile and keen interest in everyone he encountered.  Jack enjoyed life and shared it with everyone around him; as a leader, his gentle manner and the kindest of hearts will be the things we miss the most.”

As a Roman Catholic, Jack Shea's values were expressed in his work and his life. Shea and his screenwriter wife, Patti, were founding members of Catholics In Media Associates.

Each Spring, the group honors films and TV shows expressing spiritual values. The 2013 winners included "The Bible" miniseries on The History Channel, the Denzel Washington film, "Flight," and the TV show "Bones."

"He loved his family and God and the Directors Guild, though not necessarily in that order," said his daughter, Shawn Shea, told The Los Angeles Times.

The L.A. Times story also noted that Shea was an advocate for minority hiring and local production. "He also stripped the name of D.W. Griffith from the guild's award for life achievement. Critics said Griffith's 1915 "Birth of a Nation," while a masterpiece on some levels, glorified the Ku Klux Klan."

In a video interview on the Directors Guild of America website, Shea says "The guild has always tried to do something about [gender and ethnic diversity] ... when I joined the guild, the guild was all white, all male. But we now have a wide range of people in this group."

Variety notes that Shea's 40 years of television involved directing and producing, mostly in sitcoms, including 110 episodes of “The Jeffersons” and 91 episodes of “Silver Spoons.” He also worked on “The Ropers,” “Sanford & Son,” “Designing Women” (earning an Emmy nomination), “The Charmings,” “Growing Pains” and “The Waltons.” Shea directed ten Bob Hope holiday and comedy specials from 1956-66, including many taped overseas.

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