Born in Evansville, Indiana, Glass received a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and literature from the University of Evansville, and got his start in the entertainment business at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, before relocating to Hollywood in hopes to advance his career. Ron made his onscreen debut in a 1973 guest spot on All in the Family. He would go on to appear on numerous shows over the next few years, including Maude, Hawaii 5-0 and The Bob Newhart Show.
His big break, however, came in 1975 when he was cast as Det. Ron Harris on the popular comedy series Barney Miller alongside Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, and Steve Landesberg. The series ran for nearly 200 episodes until 1982, with Glass appearing in nearly all of them. The sitcom won two Golden Globes and two Emmy Awards for best comedy series. Glass was nominated for a supporting actor Emmy in 1982.
Following the end of Barney Miller, Glass would go on to star in The New Odd Couple as Felix Unger to Demond Wilson's Oscar Madison. He continued to work steadily throughout the rest of his life, appearing in numerous TV shows and movies.
Throughout his distinguished career, Glass also had guest roles on Family Matters, Star Trek, Friends, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., CSI, Designing Women, and Sanford and Son.
Glass also did voice work, and his intonations will be known to Nickelodeon fans as Rugrats' Randall "Randy" Carmichael, the father of Susie and her siblings Alisa, Edwin, and Buster, husband of Lucy and a writer for the Dummi Bears TV show. Ron reprised his role as Randy in the Rugrats' follow-up series, All Grown Up!.
Sci-fi fans best know Glass for playing Shepherd Derrial Book on Joss Whedon’s short-lived series Firefly and its followup movie Serenity. Book's sage-like wisdom frequently provided the renegade space crew the spiritual guidance they needed.
In addition to his work as an actor, Glass was a leader in the California Buddhist community. He was a prominent member of the Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist organization.
He was also a member of the board of directors for Los Angeles' AL Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, an organisation named for a man murdered in a gang-initiation drive-by shooting and dedicated to helping inner-city youth stay safe and receive an education.
Following landing his breakout role on the sitcom Barney Miller, playing Det. Ron Harris, the actor received a Primetime Emmy nomination in 1982 in the category of supporting actor. The sitcom regularly aired from 1975-1982.
"Ron was a private, gentle and caring man," Jeffrey Leavett, Ron's longtime friend and agent, told The Associated Press on Saturday. "He was an absolute delight to watch on screen. Words cannot adequately express my sorrow."
Glass's Firefly co-stars have been sharing their memories of him on Twitter. Nathan Fillion posted:
"Shepard, don't move."
"Won't go far."
We love you, Ron Glass. Don't go far. https://www.instagram.com/p/BNSiJUPDJHc/
Alan Tudyk wrote: "Ron Glass was one of the greatest actors to work with. His laugh was beyond infectious and his generosity was ever present." Tudyk also added: "Ron Glass was also a sassy smart ass and I prize that very much. A leaf on the wind."
It was an Honor & a Pleasure to work with the Amazing Ron Glass! RIP, Sir!— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) November 26, 2016
He got there with grace, humor & enormous heart. He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron. pic.twitter.com/yzPly7TmgE— Joss Whedon (@joss) November 26, 2016
Ron Glass was also a sassy smart ass and I prize that very much. A leaf on the wind. #ripronglass— alan tudyk (@AlanTudyk) November 26, 2016
Ron Glass was one of the greatest actors to work with. His laugh was beyond infectious and his generosity was ever present. #ripronglass— alan tudyk (@AlanTudyk) November 26, 2016
Happy rebirth, dear Ron Glass.— Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin) November 26, 2016
Among the kindest and gentlest souls to have walked this earth with us.https://t.co/rF1bDPxeRa
This is me acting like an idiot just so I could hear Ron Glass laugh. He was the kind of person that remembered the details, that asked about your family's well-being. He hugged hard and often. He would laugh till he cried at a sick joke and top it with a worse one. He loved a Grey Goose crantini and spilled one on my white jeans in the heat of telling a story, and then just said, "Girl, those were ugly pants anyway." I adored him. Everybody did. I love you, Ron. Can't wait to see you again. "I don't care what you believe. Just believe it."
Ron Glass Dead – ‘Barney Miller’ Star Dies at 71 : We lost another one I stole his identity in the movie houseguest https://t.co/4Z9LmC6fTa— Sinbad (@sinbadbad) November 26, 2016
I hope Ron Glass is somewhere, enjoying a horrible cup of coffee with Jack Soo. #RIPRonGlass— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) November 26, 2016
Goodnight, sweet Ron....— Ron Perlman (@perlmutations) November 26, 2016
⚡️ “Emmy-nominated actor Ron Glass is dead at 71”https://t.co/arBPOlGzfM
Sources: The A.V. Club, BET, Spy, US Magazine, Deadline Hollywood; Additional sources: IMDb, Rugrats Wiki, Behind The Voice Actors.