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Merlin Olsen

Born September 15

by Legacy Staff

Merlin Olsen spent 15 years in the NFL, dishing out hits for the Los Angeles Rams as part of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line. We remember his life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.

Merlin Olsen spent 15 years in the NFL, dishing out hits for the Los Angeles Rams as part of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line. Away from the gridiron, Olsen was a successful broadcaster for college and professional football, but he is perhaps remembered best as Jonathan Garvey on “Little House on the Prairie.” For four years, he played the affable farmer and friend to Michael Landon’s Charles Ingalls. Olsen also would star later on “Father Murphy,” another TV series produced by Landon. Later in life, he also devoted his time to the Children’s Miracle Network telethons and his wife, Susan Wakley, with whom he raised three children. We remember Olsen’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 Richard Wright of Pink Floyd.


1958: Wendie Jo Sperber, U.S. actress who had notable roles in “Bosom Buddies” and “Back to the Future,” is born in Los Angeles, California.

1945: P.F. Sloan, U.S. singer-songwriter who wrote the classic rock song “Eve of Destruction,” is born in New York, New York.

After recording his debut single “All I Want Is Loving” / “Little Girl in the Cabin”, the still-teenaged Sloan got a job with music publisher Screen Gems, who hired Sloan to work with the surf-rock duo Jan & Dean. Sloan then moved to Dunhill Records, where he wrote hit songs for artists such as Herman’s Hermits, the Turtles, the Searchers, the Grass Roots, and Barry McGuire. Read more




1942: Lee Dorman, U.S. bassist for the rock band Iron Butterfly, is born in St. Louis, Missouri.

Lee Dorman (Associated Press)Iron Butterfly was formed and rose to prominence in the late 1960s. Its second album, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” sold more than 30 million copies, according to the band’s website. The title track’s distinctive notes have been featured in numerous films and on TV shows including “The Simpsons,” “That ’70s Show,” and in the series finale of “Rescue Me.” Read more



1941: Signe Toly Anderson, U.S. rock singer who was a founding member of the Jefferson Airplane, is born in Seattle, Washington.

1940: Merlin Olsen, U.S. NFL player with the Los Angeles Rams who went on to an acting career with starring roles on “Little House on the Prairie” and “Father Murphy,” is born in Logan, Utah.

Olsen tried and excelled at a little bit of everything, starting with football. The Utah State defensive tackle graduated to an NFL career, playing with the Los Angeles Rams for 15 seasons. He was rookie of the year, a Pro Bowl pick for 14 out of 15 seasons, an NFL All-Decade Team member in both decades in which he played, and a member of the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome line. After his years of success as a player, Olsen continued his work with the NFL as a color commentator. Throughout the 1980s, Olsen covered the American Football Conference for NBC, and he covered Rose Bowl games and Super Bowl XXIII as well. Read more


1928: Cannonball Adderley, U.S. jazz saxophonist who had a hit in 1966 with “Mercy Mercy Mercy,” is born in Tampa, Florida.

1922: Jackie Cooper, U.S. actor who was the longtime record holder as the youngest nominee for an Academy Award for best actor, for “Skippy” when he was 9, is born in Los Angeles, California.

Jackie Cooper (AP photo)Cooper reigned with Shirley Temple as one of the most popular child stars of the 1930s. Starting in comedy shorts, he rose to top ranks with “Skippy,” a sentimental adaptation of a popular comic strip. He followed with such hits as “The Champ,” “The Bowery,” “Treasure Island,” and “O’Shaughnessy’s Boy,” all co-starring Wallace Beery. With his career fading after World War II, Cooper left Hollywood for the New York theater. He returned to Hollywood and starred on two successful situation comedies, “The People’s Choice” (1955-58) and “Hennessey” (1959-62). He appeared as a Navy doctor in “Hennessey,” which he also produced and directed. Read more


1921: Norma MacMillan, Canadian actress who provided the voices of Gumby on “The Gumby Show” and Davey on “Davey and Goliath,” is born in Vancouver, British Columbia.

1918: Nipsey Russell, U.S. comedian and actor who played the Tin Man in “The Wiz” and made frequent appearances on game shows including “Match Game,” is born in Atlanta, Georgia.

Russell was a fixture of television, appearing all over – as a guest host for Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show,” as a regular on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” as a policeman on “Car 54, Where Are You?”, and on game shows like “To Tell the Truth,” “Pyramid,” “What’s My Line?”, and “Match Game.” Read more




1907: Fay Wray, Canadian-American actress known best for starring in “King Kong,” is born in Cardston, Alberta.

When Fay Wray was tapped to play the giant ape’s ideal woman, she was told, cryptically, that she’d be starring opposite the “tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood.” She thought that meant Cary Grant, a young starlet’s dream. The truth, of course, was much stranger but Wray didn’t say no to the unusually hairy co-star (who probably guaranteed Wray’s enduring fame more than a role opposite Grant would have). Donning a blond wig so she’d stand out against Kong’s dark fur, she began practicing her screams. Read more



1903: Roy Acuff, U.S. country music singer and fiddler known as the King of Country Music, is born in Maynardville, Tennessee.

As frontman of the Smoky Mountain Boys, Acuff faced an uphill battle toward acceptance of country music. When, five years after his entry into the ranks of the Opry, Acuff invited the governor of his home state of Tennessee to an Opry gala, he was rudely rebuffed. Gov. Prentice Cooper called Acuff’s music disgraceful and blamed him for making Tennessee the “hillbilly capital of the United States.” Harsh criticism for a man who was a veritable country music star – and who was about to crack the top 20 of the U.S. singles chart, too. Read more



1890: Agatha Christie, English author of popular crime novels such as “Murder on the Orient Express” and “And Then There Were None,” is born in Torquay, England.

In addition to using poison to dispatch her characters, Christie killed her fictional victims in the following ways: strangled by a raincoat belt, strangled by a ukulele string, jabbed in the neck with a venom-tipped dart, stabbed with a corn knife, stabbed with an ornamental Tunisian dagger, drowned in an apple tub, crushed by a bear-shaped marble clock, and electrocuted by a chessboard rigged to deliver the fatal charge upon completion of the third move of the Ruy Lopez opening. Read more




1889: Robert Benchley, U.S. humorist who was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, is born in Worcester, Massachusetts.

1789: James Fenimore Cooper, U.S. author whose well-known works include “The Leatherstocking Tales,” is born in Burlington, New Jersey.

1254: Marco Polo, Italian merchant and explorer who introduced Europeans to the Middle East and China via his writings of his travels, is born in Venice, Italy.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including Richard Wright of Pink Floyd.

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