Joseph Wapner, the original TV courtroom judge who presided over “The People’s Court,” died at his Los Angeles home on Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. He was 97.
Born on Nov. 19, 1919, in Los Angeles, Wapner always called Southern California home. He attended Hollywood High School and the University of Southern California, where he graduated in 1941.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II, Wapner joined the U.S. Army, where he saw combat in the Pacific,
according to the Washington Post. While on the Philippine island of Cebu, Wapner was wounded by shrapnel from a grenade, but still managed to save a fellow soldier from machine gunfire.
He reached the rank of first lieutenant in the Army and was awarded three battle stars, the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, according to the Daily News.
After World War II, Wapner returned to USC where he received a law degree in 1948. Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown appointed him to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1961. Two years later, he was appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
After retiring from the court in 1979, Wapner became the judge on "The People’s Court," presiding over small claims cases for a syndicated TV audience. Wapner presided over 2,000 episodes of the show from 1981 until 1993.