REED, ROBERT (JOHN ROBERT RIETZ, JR.) (1932–1992).
Actor Robert Reed was born John Robert Rietz, Jr., in Highland Park, Illinois, on October 19, 1932, to John Robert and Helen Rietz. When "Bob," as the younger Rietz was known, was eight years old, his family moved to Oklahoma, settling in the rural area outside Muskogee. Rietz attended Muskogee schools and received his early dramatic training at Muskogee Central High School. He participated in vocal music, dramatics, and public speaking as a sophomore, junior, and senior. As a senior he won the National Forensic Society statewide Oklahoma competition. Graduating from Central in 1950, Rietz matriculated at Northwestern University, in Illinois, majoring in speech and drama. At Northwestern, as he often said, "they shook the Okie out of me." Noted actors Jerry Ohrbach, Paula Prentiss, and Richard Benjamin were his classmates. From college, Rietz went to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Back in the United States, he performed wherever possible, primarily in Shakespearean theater; at this time he adopted his stage name, Robert Reed, and moved to Los Angeles, California.
Early in his career Reed found work in television. In 1961 he landed a permanent role in The Defenders, starring with venerable actor E. G. Marshall through 1965. From this start, he went on to star as Mike Brady, opposite Florence Henderson, in The Brady Bunch from 1968 through 1974. At the same time he appeared regularly in episodes of Mannix. For his work in 1976 in the made-for-television nighttime serial Rich Man, Poor Man, he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy. He followed this with a role in Roots (1977) and another Emmy nomination. Along the way, he appeared in multiple episodes of Dr. Kildare, Mod Squad, Medical Center (earning a third Emmy nomination), Wonder Woman, and The Love Boat,and in single episodes of dozens of other series.
Meanwhile, the Rietz family moved to California, and then Helen Rietz returned to eastern Oklahoma, raising turkeys and cattle near Sallisaw. Her son Robert Reed also leased land and bought and raised Black Angus there, making semi-monthly trips to the area to manage the business. Reed was married from 1954 to 1959 to Marilyn Rosenburger, a fellow Northwestern Student, with whom he had a daughter. He died on May 12, 1992, of cancer, having recently completed his final television appearance in an episode of Jake and the Fatman.
Don Freeman, "How They Shook the Okie Out of Robert Reed [syndicated column]," The Evening News (Newburgh, N.Y), 30 May 1978.
Muskogee Central High School, The Chieftain [yearbook], 1948, 1949, 1950.
"Robert Reed," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Earl Wilson, "Robert Reed: He's an Okie, But He Just Reeks of Chic—Cattle and All [syndicated column]," St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, 18 September 1963.
The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Dianna Everett, "Reed, Robert (John Robert Rietz, Jr.)," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org (accessed April 23, 2017).
© Copyright Oklahoma Historical Society 2009.