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Obituary: Sy Gomberg, professor, screenwriter, producer, activist, 82

Sy Gomberg – an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, producer and civil rights activist who taught screenwriting to USC students for more than a decade – died Feb. 11 of a heart attack at his home in Brentwood. He was 82.

Gomberg earned a bachelor’s degree in cinema from USC in 1941. He spent World War II in the Air Force Motion Picture Unit in Hollywood. After the war, he was a contributor to Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post.

In 1951, he received an Academy Award nomination for “When Willie Comes Marching Home” – which was based on a story Gomberg originally wrote for Collier’s – and a Writers Guild of America nomination for “Summer Stock.” Gomberg’s many other credits include creating, producing and writing the influential 1960s TV series “The Law and Mr. Jones.”

A major supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Gomberg organized members of the film industry to march with Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama in the 1960s. In the 1990s, Gomberg turned his activist energies “to eliminating excessive, gratuitous or unpunished violence in films and television” as one of the organizers of Hollywood’s Committee to End Violence.

“Those who knew Sy remember him as a gifted and giving teacher and human being, and words cannot describe the deep feeling of loss I have for such a beautiful heart,” said James Ragan, director of USC’s Master of Professional Writing Program, where Gomberg taught screenwriting.

He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Maxine; his son, Chris; two daughters, Marsha Fineberg and Katherine Blake; a sister and five grandchildren.

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