Prolific screen and television writer and past president of the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) John Furia Jr has died. He was 79. Tonight, the WGA put out this statement: “He is remembered not only as a colleague and mentor to his fellow writers, but also as a stalwart advocate for their rights.” And WGAW President Patrick Verrone eulogized that “John’s character and dignity touched and influenced generations of writers from the founders of the Guild itself to the newest of student-associates. For those of us who relied on his knowledge and his counsel, John was more than an éminence grise; he was pure eminence.”

Furia’s involvement in the entertainment industry stretched far beyond his work as a writer-producer for major studios and networks. In addition to being WGAW president from 1973-1975, he was a chair of the National Council of the Writers Guilds East and West, past president and board member of the Writers Guild Foundation, and a founding vice president of the Humanitas Prize. He also served on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and the Board of Directors of the National Captioning Institute.

He was a recipient of three of the WGAW’s Honorary Awards in recognition for his outstanding contributions to the Guild. In 1978, he received the Morgan Cox Award for service to the Guild; in 1990 he was given the Valentine Davies Award for contributions to the entertainment industry and the community-at-large; and in 1994 he was honored with the Edmund H. North Award, “presented to those members whose courageous leadership, strength of purpose and continuing selfless activity in behalf of the Guild through the years, as well as professional achievement of the highest order, have served to establish the Writers Guild of America as a pillar of strength and security for writers throughout the world.”

Furia was also a founding chairman of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television Writing Division and remained in the program as a full professor teaching writing for screen and television.