Sgt. Joe Friday was portrayed by John Randolph "Jack" Webb who was also known as John Randolph and Preston Wood. In addition to an actor, Jack was a television producer, director and screenwriter and was the founder of his own production company, "Mark VII Limited"
Webb was born in the heart of the movie industry, Santa Monica, California and was raised by his mother. His dad left home before Jack was born and never connected with him. He was raised Roman Catholic. Jack had a love for jazz having been raised in a rooming house next to a jazz musician. He eventually moved into a church parish "Our Lady of Loretto Church and attended it's elementary school. He graduated from Belmont High School and furthered his education in art at the St. John's University in Minnesota. He enlisted in the US Army Air Force during World War II but was unable to complete flight training and was discharged.
He soon found himself in San Francisco and had his own 30 minute comedy radio show "The Jack Webb" show. He soon moved from comedy to drama having starred in the "Pat Novak for Hire" radio program where he played the character of an unlicensed private detective. His partner in the show was actor Raymond Burr of "Perry Mason" fame.
|Badge was retired at Webb's memorial|
The story of "Dragnet" was created with the help of the Los Angeles Police Department. They worked with Webb to create a real to life account of the everyday happenings of the Los Angeles Police Department. Webb was known for his attention to detail. He developed a tremendous respect for law enforcement and in return, the L.A.Police Department returned that same respect to Webb. In the show, Sgt. Joe Friday had the fictional badge number #714.
Webb was just as successful with his production company as he was an actor. He produced many popular shows including "Emergency!" "77 Sunset Strip" and "Adam-12."
As mentioned previously, Webb had a love for jazz and eventually married singer and actress Julie London. Following their divorce, Webb married twice more. His daughter, Stacy collaborated on Jack's biography called "Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Authorized Biography of Jack Webb." Stacy died in a car accident before the book was published.
Jack was working on a revival of "Dragnet" and on Dec. 22, 1982, suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 62. He was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1 for radio and the other for television).
|Jack Webb memorial tribute program|
William Conrad, Daryl Gates, Chief of the LAPD and others in law enforcement. Webb received an Airborne salute, memorial volley and taps. It was during the tribute that badge #714 was retired. The flags in Los Angeles were lowered to half-staff.
|Jack Webb's resting place|