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John Spencer

John Spencer, born John Speshock (1946-2005), was an American actor who was best known for his role as Leo McGarry, the White House Chief of Staff on the television drama The West Wing.

Spencer was born in Paterson, New Jersey and grew up in nearby Totowa, the son of blue-collar parents, a Ukrainian-American father and an Irish-American mother. With his enrollment at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan at age 16, his classmates included Liza Minnelli and violinist Pinchas Zukerman. Later he attended Fairleigh Dickinson University but did not complete a degree.

Spencer began his television career on The Patty Duke Show. In the early 1990s, he was a regular cast member on L.A. Law, playing Tommy Mullaney. Later, he acted in the romantic comedy Forget Paris (1995) as a wisecracking co-worker to Billy Crystal's basketball referee; The Rock (1994) as the untrustworthy FBI official Womack, and the 2002 theater production of The Exonerated. Paralleling his character on The West Wing, he was a recovering alcoholic and heart attack victim.

Spencer won an Obie Award for the 1981 off-Broadway production of Still Life, about a Vietnam veteran, and received a Drama Desk nomination for The Day Room. After two previous nominations, Spencer won his first Emmy Award in 2002 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Leo McGarry on The West Wing. The episodes Spencer submitted for judging by the Emmy voters were Bartlet for America, in which Leo has to testify in front of a Congressional committee about the President's health and flashes back to his own medical lapse, and We Killed Yamamoto.

Spencer died following a heart attack in a Los Angeles hospital, four days before what would have been his fifty-ninth birthday. He was an only child and never married.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.
Read earlier biographies on this page.

John Spencer Facts

Birth NameJohn Speshock
BirthdayDecember 20, 1946
BirthplaceNew York, New York, USA
Date of deathDecember 16, 2005 (Los Angeles, California, USA, age 58)
Height5' 6½" (1m69)  How tall is John Spencer compared to you?
Awards2002 Emmy Awards: Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series (for The West Wing)

Selected Filmography

Not available.