Tom Harmon - Patriarch and Heisman winner

By Laurie Bennett

November 19, 2010 at 11:51am

Dedicated followers of Muckety know that sports is not our focus, but today we’re using the controversy over the Heisman Trophy as a far-fetched excuse to talk about Mark Harmon.

The star of NCIS was not a trophy winner, but his father was. Tom Harmon, a star player at the University of Michigan, won the trophy in 1940, a year after Time put his handsome mug on the cover. The magazine called him a “gregarious, lantern-jawed six footer with a Tarzan physique.”

In his last game as a Wolverine, Harmon scored 34 of the 40 winning points against arch-enemy Ohio State. His performance was so stunning that Buckeye fans did the unthinkable. They gave him a standing ovation and rushed him on the field.

Tom Harmon
Tom Harmon

Tom Harmon later flew fighter planes in World War II, when he was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart. After the war, he played for the Los Angeles Rams and provided sports commentary for ABC radio. He died in 1990.

His son Mark played quarterback for UCLA before beginning an acting career that has included stints on The West Wing, Chicago Hope and St. Elsewhere. He was People’s sexiest man in 1986.

Mark’s sister Kelly married automaker John DeLorean. Another sister, Kristin, married child TV start and pop musician Ricky Nelson.

Despite many successes, the family has had its tragedies.

Kristin and Ricky Nelson divorced in 1982. Three years later, Ricky was killed in a plane crash.

Mark and his wife, actress Pam Dawber, later sued Kristin for custody of her youngest son, Sam. They said they were concerned about Kristin’s history with drugs and alcohol. The court battle and the accompanying media coverage turned ugly, and Mark Harmon eventually withdrew his case.

Two other sons of Kristin and Ricky Nelson, Matthew and Gunnar, formed the band Nelson.

Dawber, who has stayed out of the limelight over the last decade, is probably best known as Robin Williams’ co-star in the TV show, Mork and Mindy.

She later starred in another TV sitcom, My Sister Sam. The young actress who played her sister on the show, Rebecca Schaeffer, was murdered by a stalker in 1989. Schaeffer’s death at age 21 led to passage of anti-stalking laws in California.

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