Muscular Dystrophy Advocate Jerry Lewis Dies, Aged 91

Wendy Henderson avatar

by Wendy Henderson |

Share this article:

Share article via email

Actor, comedian, and MDA Telethon host Jerry Lewis died of natural causes on Sunday, August 20 at his home in Las Vegas.

MORE: Watch what happens when children meet a man with muscular dystrophy

As well as enjoying a glittering career in Hollywood, often as part of a double act with Dean Martin, Lewis is also famous for hosting the yearly telethon for muscular dystrophy (MD).

According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Lewis worked with the organization for more than 50 years and served as an honorary national chairman. Through his telethons and other charitable events, the star raised billions of dollars which contributed towards many important research projects. His work with the organization will never be forgotten.

The MDA Telethon ran for 45 years and although it raised more than $2.5 billion for MD research, the event was not without opposition. Many felt the event made people pity those with disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, and others thought the language Lewis used when talking about those living with the condition was disrespectful and ignorant according to a report in the Washington Post.

However, Lewis had many fans from within the MD community who were thankful the star had chosen to help raise awareness of the condition and to help destigmatize disabilities.

Lewis’ telethon first began in New York in 1966 and the event raised $1 million for the MDA. The event was then broadcast nationwide and ran for 24 hours on Labor Day each year. Towards the end of Lewis’ reign as host of the telethon, which ended in 2010, there were many protests — largely coming from the MD community who felt the event did not reflect the changing times and attitudes of those living with disabilities.  The event continued for another four years after Lewis retired as host.

MORE: End of an era: MDA Telethon ends historic run, urgent fight for families continues

Muscular Dystrophy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.