Martin Milner, star of TV's 'Route 66' and 'Adam-12,' dies at 83

Story highlights

  • Actor Martin Milner of the '60s TV hit "Adam-12" dies at 83
  • Milner also starred on TV's "Route 66"

(CNN)Actor Martin Milner, who projected clean-cut integrity through car windshields on '60s TV hits "Route 66" and "Adam-12," has died. He was 83.

Milner died Sunday night surrounded by his family, said friend Pete Gray, who with Milner co-hosted "Let's Talk HookUp," a Southern California radio show on sportfishing.
Milner appeared in dozens of TV shows and movies in a Hollywood career that spanned half a century, from "Dragnet" to "Murder, She Wrote." His forthright manner and wholesome looks made him a popular choice to play cops, military officers and other authority figures.
    But he is best remembered for two roles that placed him behind the wheel of a car, fighting crime and seeking adventure.
    In "Route 66," which ran from 1960 to 1964, Milner played Tod Stiles, a restless young man who wandered the country with buddy Buz Murdock (later Lincoln Case) in a Corvette convertible, taking odd jobs and helping local people with their struggles.
    Inspired by Jack Kerouac's novel "On the Road," the show tackled social issues and filmed in locations all over the country, reflecting the rise of American car culture and the interstate highway system.
    A few years later, Milner returned to TV screens weekly as LAPD officer Pete Malloy in "Adam-12," about two patrol cops who grapple with a range of incidents -- from the murderous to the mundane -- while cruising the streets of Los Angeles. A steady, principled veteran of the force, Malloy was paired with a rookie cop, Jim Reed (Kent McCord).
    The show's title was police code for the main characters' unit and patrol car, and its frequently repeated radio call sign, "1-Adam-12," became a catchphrase. Plotlines were based on actual LAPD cases.
    "Adam-12" ran from 1968 to 1975 and was credited with introducing many Americans to police jargon and procedures.
    Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said that Milner's role on "Adam-12" inspired him and countless others to join the force.
    "#Adam12 and Martin Milner embodied the spirit of the #LAPD to millions of viewers," the LAPD's Beck said Monday on Twitter. "His depiction of a professional & tough yet compassionate cop led 2 thousands of men & women applying 2 become #LAPD officers, including me."
    Born in 1931 in Detroit, Milner moved with his family to Los Angeles as a teenager and soon began appearing steadily on TV and in movies. His big break came in the early 1950s, when he met actor-producer Jack Webb, who gave him a role on "Dragnet" and later cast him in "Adam-12."
    Among Milner's many other credits were small movie roles in "Sweet Smell of Success" and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" and TV parts on "The Life of Riley," "Rawhide," "Columbo," "Swiss Family Robinson" and "MacGyver."
    He reprised his Pete Malloy role in the TV series "The New Adam-12," which had a brief run in 1990-91.