For many people who grew up watching Martin Milner in Adam-12, his portrayal of compassionate cop Pete Malloy was inspirational.
Take Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck. For him, Milner’s role on the classic NBC series influenced generations of police officers, inspired by his compassionate, yet tough, character.
“Adam-12 and Martin Milner embodied the spirit of the LAPD to millions of viewers. His depiction of a professional and tough yet compassionate cop led thousands of men and women applying to become LAPD officers, including me. Godspeed Martin, you will live forever in our hearts.”
Milner died on Sunday at age 83 at his home in Carlsbad, California. His death was caused by heart failure, his wife, Judy, told the New York Times.
Milner’s role on Adam-12 is his most famous, though the actor starred in 40 films throughout his long career. His turn as the baby-faced Malloy lasted from 1968 to 1975, People added. Despite his other memorable roles, Martin didn’t consider himself a star, nor did he want to be one.
“The really big stars have a drive that made them into superstars. They can’t turn it off when they have that success. I certainly was not driven by a great dedication that made me succeed or else … I was never a celebrity – just a working actor.”
Martin was a Detroit native, but he grew up in Seattle and Los Angeles. Born in 1931 to a film distributor and professional dancer with Paramount Theater, Milner debuted in 1947 as a teen in Life with Father. He was diagnosed with polio soon after, but appeared in Sands of Iwo Jima only two years later.
From 1952 to 1954 Milner served in the Army during the Korean War, serving in California alongside other actors David Janssen, Clint Eastwood, and Richard Long, NPR reported; Martin directed training films and appeared in touring shows. Afterward, he studied theater at the University of Southern California for a year.
During his service, his acting career took off. Milner’s TV roles began in 1952 with a few appearances on Dragnet. By 1960, he got a lead role in four seasons of the hit show Route 66 alongside George Maharis. The duo played single men in their 20s who traveled around the county in a Chevy Corvette. Then, of course, came Adam-12.
Martin’s movie roles were prolific as well — Sweet Smell of Success, Too Much, Too Soon, Compulsion, Marjorie Morningstar. He left showbiz in the mid-90s without much regret, but took guest roles well into his 60s. Milner’s last was Diagnosis Murder (he played a police captain) in 1997. An avid fisherman, he hosted two fishing shows into the 2000s; reprised Route 66 in a documentary that saw Martin get back behind the wheel of a Corvette; and farmed avocados and walnuts.
Martin is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Judy, and three children; a fourth, Amy, died of leukemia in 2004.
Milner’s death was announced via Facebook and confirmed by Adam-12 co-star Kent McCord, who, of course, had nothing but glowing memories of the beloved actor.
“I had a long, long friendship with Marty and we remained friends up till the end. He was one of the really true great people of our industry with a long, distinguished career… Wonderful films, wonderful television shows, pioneering shows like Route 66. He was one of the great guys. I was lucky to have him in my life.”
[Photo Courtesy Getty Images]