John Sacret Young, the author and producer best known for his work on “China Beach” and “The West Wing,” died on June 3 after a 10-month battle with brain cancer. He was 75.
Young co-created “China Beach” with William Broyles Jr., serving as executive producer and showrunner on the much-lauded show about American combat nurses during the Vietnam War. Young received five Emmy and four Writers Guild Award nominations for his work on the ABC drama series, which ran from 1988-91, with star Dana Delany receiving two Emmy trophies and co-star Marg Helgenberger winning one. Young served as a mentor to many young crew members and took pride in elevating women’s careers behind the camera despite the overt and implicit sexism of the time.
He worked on an array of other projects after “China Beach,” including “Keys,” “VR.5,” “Orleans,” “Thanks of a Grateful Nation,” “Sirens,” “King of the World” and “Level 9.” He was also a producer and writer on “The West Wing,” which brought him two more Emmy and Writers Guild nominations. In total, he was nominated for seven Emmys and seven WGA Awards.
In addition to his work on the small screen, Young wrote and produced several feature films including Testament” and “Romero.” After taking a hiatus from Hollywood for over 15 years, he served as the writer and co-producer of the new Netflix series “Firefly Lane.”
Born on May 24, 1946, to Peggy and Bill Young, he grew up in Montclair, NJ., and Manomet, Mass., as the youngest of four siblings. After attending high school in Montclair, Young played football, hockey and lacrosse during his freshman year at Princeton. For his senior thesis, he wrote his first novel about two women working in the 1968 presidential campaign.
Young began his television work by writing three episodes of “Police Story” in 1976-77, which took home the Emmy that year for best drama. A few years later, he won his first Writers Guild Award for adapting Philip Caputo’s “A Rumor of War” into a mini-series
In addition to being a well-regarded showrunner, Young was an author known for writing deeply emotional stories about war and other major real-world events. He published a memoir about his cousin’s death in Vietnam titled “Remains: Non-Viewable,” which became a Los Angeles Times bestseller. His final book, “Pieces of Tinsel,” about his experiences in Hollywood, will be published posthumously in 2022.
Young wrote extensively about various art topics that ranged from John O’Hara to abstract expressionism. He also contributed introductions and essays to various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Written By magazine and the book “Doing It for the Money.”
In addition to teaching at Princeton, Young lectured at various institutions such as USC, UC Santa Barbara, the Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton Presidential Libraries. He also served on the boards at the Firestone Library at Princeton, Humanitas Prize, the Burchfield Penney Art Center and the Writers Guild Foundation.
Young is survived by his wife, Claudia Sloan; brother Mason his four children and three grandchildren.