Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 - October 24, 1991) was a USAF bomber pilot, ex-cop, freelance scriptwriter, and creator of possibly the single most influential franchise in the history of television, Star Trek the Original Series.
Roddenberry had intended to be a commercial pilot after WWII, but upon discovering television correctly intuited that the new medium would be in need of writers. Already a published author of stories and poetry, he decided to change careers and enter into television writing.
At a friend's suggestion he joined the Los Angeles Police Department to gather experience and perspectives of which he could make use. By the time he left the LAPD he had successfully sold scripts to many of the dramatic shows of the period, including Mr District Attorney (to which he made his first script sale, in 1953), Gruen Guild Playhouse, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, The Naked City and Chevron Hall of Stars (where he sold his first science fiction script, in 1956).
He later became the head writer for both West Point and Have Gun Will Travel, winning a Writers' Guild Award for an episode he penned for the latter show. While continuing to write freelance for other shows, Roddenberry moved into production, creating and producing the Marine Corps series The Lieutenant. And after The Lieutenant came the creation that would carry him for most of the rest of his life: Star Trek.
Between the end of the original Star Trek and the first of the Star Trek movies, Roddenberry produced a number of films and television pilots, including the 1971 theatrical release Pretty Maids All In A Row, Genesis II (1973) and The Questor Tapes (1974).
After 1979 and Star Trek the Motion Picture, virtually all of Roddenberry's creative energies were applied to Star Trek. Between all the movies, TV series, and video games, he held a wide variety of posts, but until his death in 1991 he was still the final creative authority for the Trek universe, and known to fans as "The Great Bird of the Galaxy". During this time, presumably, he also developed the concepts that would later reach television audiences as Earth: Final Conflict (in 1997) and Andromeda (in 2000). These were shepherded into existence by his by-then-widow, Majel Barrett (1932-2008), who was also deeply influential in Star Trek and (unless the recent film reboot manages to create spin-offs of its own) will be the only person to have contributed to all seven incarnations of the franchise.
He was a well-respected man, but not always well-liked. He was stubbornly convinced that he always knew what was best for Star Trek — which, after all, he had created — and had a tendency toward the autocratic when it came to dealing with his staff; this attitude led to tremendous flareups between him and his collaborators over Creative Differences, which partly explains why he had little official control over the movies after The Motion Picture. There were similar difficulties at the outset of Star Trek the Next Generation; by the end of the first season he had managed to alienate a great many of his long-time creative partners, including famed original series writer D.C. Fontana. In general, though, outside of his professional issues, many regarded him as a friendly Gentle Giant of a man.
Member of the Writers Guild Executive Council
Governor of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Humane Letters from Emerson College in Boston, Mass.
Doctor of Literature from Union College in Los Angeles
Doctor of Science from Clarkson College in Potsdam, New York
(All honorary degrees)
First writer/producer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.