Ted Knight (December 7, 1923 – August 26, 1986) was an actor best known for playing the comedic role of Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Henry Rush on Too Close for Comfort, and Judge Smails in Caddyshack.
Born Tadeusz Władysław Konopka to a Polish American family in Terryville, Connecticut, Knight dropped out of high school to enlist for military service in World War II, He was a member of A Company, 296th Engineer Combat Battalion, earning five battle stars while serving in the European Theatre. In 1948, he married Dorothy Smith, and eventually had three children, Ted Knight. Jr., Elyse, and Eric.
During the postwar years, Knight studied acting in Hartford, Connecticut. He became proficient with puppets and ventriloquism, which led to steady work as a television kiddie-show host. In 1955, he left Hartford for Albany, New York, where he landed a job at station WROW-TV (now WTEN), hosting "The Early Show" featuring MGM movies and a kids variety show, playing a "Gabby Hayes" type character named "Windy Knight".
He was also a radio announcer for sister station WROW radio. He left the station in 1957 after receiving advice from station manager (and future Capital Cities Chairman) Thomas S. Murphy that he should take his talents to Hollywood
Knight spent most of the 1950s and 1960s doing commercial voice-overs and essaying minor television and movie roles (he was the cop guarding Norman Bates at the end of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). In the 1962-1963 season, he appeared as "Haskell" in the short-lived drama and situation comedy The New Loretta Young Show on CBS.
Knight's distinctive speaking voice brought him work as an announcer — he narrated several animated television series, including Super Friends — and he appeared frequently in television shows such as How to Marry a Millionaire, The Eleventh Hour, Bonanza, The Man and the Challenge, Combat!, Get Smart, The Twilight Zone,The Wild Wild West and The Love Boat. (In one Love Boat episode, he guest starred as a rival cruise captain opposite Mary Tyler Moore co-star Gavin MacLeod.)
His role as the vain and untalented newscaster Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show brought Knight widespread recognition, and his greatest success. He received six Emmy Award nominations for the role, winning the Emmy for "Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Comedy" in 1973 and 1976.
Ted Knight was a social conservative who often disagreed with former co-star Ed Asner. While the two were political opposites, they remained friends. Coincidentally, both Knight and Asner had played villains on episodes of The Wild Wild West.
A few months after the end of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977, he was diagnosed with cancer for which he received various forms of treatment over several years. In 1985, he was diagnosed with colon cancer which, despite rigorous treatment, eventually began to spread to his bladder and throughout his lower gastrointestinal tract. He died on August 26, 1986, from complications due to surgery. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His grave marker bears the name Theodore C. Konopka.