Every now and then you hear about someone in Hollywood who everybody describes by saying, "Oh, he is such a nice guy," and you usually roll your eyes in response. But one of those oft-mentioned guys that virtually no one has a bad thing to say about is the late John Ritter. He delighted television viewers with his portrayal of Jack Tripper on the Classic TV series of the '70s Three's Company, and, while he may not have achieved that level of fame again, he was someone we watched evolve and grow as a performer over the course of his subsequent shows, whether it was Hooperman, Hearts Afire, or 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

He was born Jonathan Southworth Ritter on Sept. 17, 1948, and began his path in life by attending the University of Southern California, where he majored in psychology and intended to get into politics. But somewhere along the way, he decided to change his focus to theater arts, transferring over to the USC School of Dramatic Artists. Graduating in 1971, he was focused on stage performances, but pretty quickly found himself drawn to both film and television, where he began scoring jobs. Over the next few years, his fame and success grew tremendously, yet somehow he never let any of it go to his head.

In an interview posted at the Authors Guild, John was reflective of his views on stardom: "I'm pretty much a very happy actor. I have my problems in my personal life, but in terms of my career, I have been so fortunate. I know there are hits and misses. I know that I won an Emmy and a Golden Globe and a couple of People's Choice Awards. I may never win anything again, and that would be fine. To be obsessed with box-office ratings and all that stuff, I've been around for so long that I know if you do that, you just whip yourself into a frenzy… But it's interesting to me to see how I do, to test myself. Sometimes I don't think anybody's watching, except maybe three people, so I do it for two people, or one person. Anyway, that's me in a nutshell."

And what follows in a nutshell is a guide to the key moments in John Ritter's life and career.