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‘All in the Family’ Star Carroll O’Connor Suffered Real-Life Tragedy When His Only Child Passed

Mary Scott
Jan 05, 2020
04:00 A.M.
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Carroll O'Connor, mostly known as Archie Bunker in "All In The Family," had what you'd call a successful television career. Sadly, the late actor's life was marred by personal tragedy when his only child, Hugh O'Connor, committed suicide.

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The loss of a child is painful for any parent, but being a public figure and having to deal with your pain in the spotlight does not make things any better. Sadly, Carroll knows how that feels.

O'Connor as Archie Bunker on November 26, 1975 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

O'Connor as Archie Bunker on November 26, 1975 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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On March 28, 1995, the actor’s only son, Hugh, killed himself in his home with a gunshot to the head. He was only 32. As the New York Times reported, the police ruled the death as a suicide and revealed they found a suicide note.

Besides working together on several TV productions like "In the Heat of the Night," the father-son duo also shared a love of vintage cars

Carroll admitted that his son had been addicted to various drugs and substances for 16 years, and earlier on the day he shot himself, the actor called the police to report that Hugh was feeling dejected and had access to guns.

Carroll O'Connor laughs as his son Hugh squeezes his cheek | Photo: Getty Images

Carroll O'Connor laughs as his son Hugh squeezes his cheek | Photo: Getty Images

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According to the Associated Press, a crisis negotiator and special weapons team did respond to Hugh’s home, but he told them to go away and proceeded to shoot himself.

Carroll told the outlet that Hugh had enrolled in three drug rehabilitation programs over the years "and could not face going into another one for perhaps six months or a year." He reportedly battled on and off with the addiction.

Carroll O'Connor in 1982 | Photo: Getty Images

Carroll O'Connor in 1982 | Photo: Getty Images

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A day after Hugh’s death, Carroll identified Harry Thomas Perzigian as his late son’s drug dealer. Harry was arrested and booked by the cops for investigation of cocaine possession.

Harry’s charge was reportedly upgraded to possession for sale after the police found what appeared to be more than an ounce of cocaine, drug paraphernalia, and $1,700 cash.

Harry Perzigian outside a Los Angeles courtroom where closing arguments were being heard on his slander lawsuit filed against O'Connor | Photo: Getty Images

Harry Perzigian outside a Los Angeles courtroom where closing arguments were being heard on his slander lawsuit filed against O'Connor | Photo: Getty Images

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A tearful Carroll told reporters shortly after his son’s suicide:

"These dealers, they kill people. They make a living giving people the means to kill themselves. Harry [Thomas Perzigian], I want to see you someday. My tragedy tonight is the tragedy of tens of thousands of other people. It's nothing unusual."

"All in the Family" cast: Carroll O'Connor, Sally Struthers, Rob Reiner, Mike Evans and Jean Stapleton | Photo: Getty Images

"All in the Family" cast: Carroll O'Connor, Sally Struthers, Rob Reiner, Mike Evans and Jean Stapleton | Photo: Getty Images

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Harry was eventually convicted of possessing cocaine and supplying the drug to Hugh. He was also sentenced to a year in jail but continued denying responsibility for the death of the actor's son.

In 1997, Harry sued Carroll for slander after the latter referred to him as a "partner in murder." The trial ended in Carroll’s favor, and during proceedings, the actor sadly relived his reaction following Hugh's death.

Carroll O'Connor in Century City, California on April 3, 2000 | Photo: Getty Images

Carroll O'Connor in Century City, California on April 3, 2000 | Photo: Getty Images

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"The thought went through my head: 'At last it’s happened – everything I’ve ever been afraid of,'" he said via the Associated Press. "I broke down and cried a lot."

Carroll and Hugh, who left behind a wife and a two-year-old son, had a close relationship. Besides working together on several TV productions like "In the Heat of the Night," the father-son duo also shared a love of vintage cars.

Per GetTV, Carroll paid tribute to his late son's memory by establishing Carroll O'Connor Classics, a business that specialized in the restoration of vintage cars. Some of the automobiles owned by Hugh were preserved in the shop.

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Carroll O'Connor on March 17, 2000 | Photo: Getty Images

Carroll O'Connor on March 17, 2000 | Photo: Getty Images

Carroll and his wife, Nancy, adopted Hugh during a trip to Rome in April 1962. As a result of his son's death, Carroll became a tireless advocate for the prevention of drug abuse and spent time and resources raising awareness about addiction.

Carroll never got over Hugh's death until he also passed away on June 21, 2001, at age 76. The veteran TV actor died of a heart attack brought on by complications from diabetes. His wife, Nancy, passed on 13 years later after a long battle with Alzheimer's.

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