Friday, December 14, 2012


There are a lot of very talented character actors that you know their faces but not their names. The late actor William Windom was just one of those stars.

He was perhaps best known for his work on television, including several episodes of The Twilight Zone; playing Glen Morley, a fictional congressman from Minnesota based on Windom's own great-grandfather and namesake in The Farmer's Daughter; the character of John Monroe on the sitcom My World and Welcome to It, for which he won an Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series; as Commodore Matt Decker, commander of the doomed U.S.S. Constellation in the Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine"; and as the character Randy Lane in the Emmy-nominated Night Gallery episode "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar". I remember him most from his most common recurring character on the Emmy-winning series Murder, She Wrote, Dr. Seth Hazlitt.

Windom was born on September 28, 1923 in New York City, the son of Isobel Wells (née Peckham) and Paul Windom, an architect. He was the great-grandson of the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury of the same name. He served in the U.S. Army in the European Theater of Operations in World War II, as a paratrooper with Company B, 1st Battalion 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

Windom's first motion picture role was as Mr. Gilmer, the prosecutor of Tom Robinson in 1962's Academy Award-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. In 1968 he also starred in The Detective with Frank Sinatra as a homophobic killer, and received great reviews from The New York Times.

From September 1963 to April 1966 he co-starred on TV with Inger Stevens in The Farmer's Daughter, a series about a young Minnesota woman who becomes the housekeeper for a widowed Congressman. In the 1969–70 NBC-TV series My World and Welcome to It, Windom played the James Thurberesque lead and received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series. After the show's cancellation he toured the country in a one-man show of Thurber's works.


He was a regular for a decade on the series Murder, She Wrote, playing Dr. Seth Hazlitt. His initial appearance in the role was in October 1985. (He had previously appeared as a guest star playing another character in April 1985.) The producers enjoyed his work, and consequently invited him to return at the beginning of the second season to take on the role permanently. He briefly left the show to work on another series in 1990, but the show was short lived and he returned to Murder, She Wrote as a semi-regular for the remainder of the series' run.

To fans of science fiction television, Windom is well known for his performance as the tortured Commodore Decker in the Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine" , a role he reprised nearly 40 years later for Star Trek New Voyages.

According to his widow, Patricia Tunder Windom, the actor died on August 16, 2012, aged 88, at his home in Woodacre, California, from congestive heart failure. His name may not be exactly recognizable, but his memorable character roles are a lasting legacy to a truly great actor...



  1. When my sister worked at the University of Texas in Arlington as the executor of their auditorium, she always took the stars to dinner before their shows and Mr. Windom was one. She said that he was a wonderfully intelligent dinner companion, and his wit was razor sharp. So sad that we lost him this year. May he RIP.

  2. I had the privilege of meeting this fine man twice - once as a college student when he performed at my school in southwestern Missouri, and again as an adult when he performed at the college in my community in Wisconsin. When the Fine Arts director of the college in Wisconsin told me he had booked him for the Fine Arts Series the following year, I told him how excited I was to be able to see his performance again and explained about the first meeting so many years earlier. On the night of the performance, the Fine Arts director told me that Mr. Windom wanted me to come backstage after the show. He welcomed me warmly when I knocked on his dressing room door and we shared stories about his visit to the small college in Missouri a decade earlier. He was a kind spirit and I remain a fan.