The actor Will Geer was an icon in the 1970s because of his late-life success (and acclaim) playing Grandpa Walton, but (as with most folks in their 70s), he did quite a bit of living before that point.
Today, I found myself at his Wikipedia page. Go give it a read. Geer, a lifelong progressive, had quite a story — between organizing for labor, getting blacklisted, touring with folk singers in the 30s, introducing Woody Guthrie to Pete Seeger, etc. You know, normal stuff.
Turns out, he also inspired a character in a Richard Yates novel.