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Born December 20

John Spencer was known best for his Emmy-winning performance on "The West Wing" as White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, which he played until his death of a heart attack in the show's seventh and final season. Other notable roles came in movies "WarGames" and "Presumed Innocent," as well as on television's "The Patty Duke Show" and "L.A. Law." We remember Spencer's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including actress Brittany Murphy.

1947: Stevie Wright, English-born musician and songwriter who was the lead singer of Australia's very popular rock band, the Easybeats, is born in Leeds, England.

1946: John Spencer, U.S. actor known for his portrayal of Leo McGarry on TV's "The West Wing," is born in New York, New York.

Spencer played Leo McGarry, the chief of staff to President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) through the first few seasons of the NBC series, according to Spencer's 2005 obituary by The Associated Press. In a sad parallel to life, his character suffered a heart attack that forced him to give up his White House job. The character recovered and was picked as a running mate for Democratic presidential contender Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits; the campaign was a central theme for the drama during the 2005 season. Read more

 

 

 

1939: Kathryn Joosten, U.S. actress who won two Emmy awards for her role as Karen McCluskey on "Desperate Housewives," is born in Chicago, Illinois.

Kathryn Joosten (Associated Press/Matt Sayles)Joosten won two Emmys for her portrayal of Mrs. McCluskey, who kept a close eye on her Wisteria Lane neighbors on "Desperate Housewives," according to her 2012 obituary by The Associated Press. The hit show ended its eight-year run on ABC that year with a series finale in which Joosten's character died. Her character's cancer was a storyline in the show. Read more

 

 

 

 

1931: Ike Skelton, U.S. politician who represented Missouri in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 through 2011, is born in Lexington, Missouri.

Ike Skelton (AP Photo)An astute military historian, Skelton, a Democrat, helped build up Missouri's two military installations, according to his 2013 obituary by The Associated Press. As Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster was losing its cache of long-range nuclear missiles, Skelton secured its future in the late 1980s by getting the Defense Department to place the new B-2 bomber there. After redistricting made Skelton the representative for Missouri's Fort Leonard Wood in 1983, the number of troops undergoing training there more than quadrupled, and the post's mission expanded from the Army to all branches of military service. Read more

 

 

1927: Jim Simpson, U.S. sportscaster who was one of the first announcers for ESPN, is born in Washington, D.C.

1921: George Roy Hill, U.S. director of movies including "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting," is born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

1917: Audrey Totter, U.S. actress known best for roles in film noir productions including "The Postman Always Rings Twice," is born in Joliet, Illinois.

Audrey Totter (Getty Images / Film Favorites / MGM)Totter was under contract with MGM starting in 1944. After landing a small part in "The Postman Always Rings Twice," Totter went on to a series of roles as tough-talking blondes, according to her 2013 obituary by The Associated Press. Her breakthrough came with "Lady in the Lake," the 1947 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe detective tale. She also appeared in the thriller "The Unsuspected" and the boxing drama "The Set-Up." Read more

 

 

 

1907: Paul Francis Webster, U.S. songwriter who won Academy awards for songs including "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing," is born in New York, New York.

1898: Irene Dunne, U.S. actress known for roles in movies including "I Remember Mama" and "Love Affair," is born in Louisville, Kentucky.

1881: Branch Rickey, U.S. Major League Baseball executive who broke the MLB color barrier when he signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, is born in Stockdale, Ohio.

1868: Harvey Firestone, U.S. businessman who founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co., is born in Columbiana, Ohio.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including actress Brittany Murphy.