Rodman Edward "Rod" Serling (December 25, 1924 – June 28, 1975) was an American screenwriter, novelist, television producer, and narrator best known for his live television dramas of the 1950s and his science fiction anthology TV series, The Twilight Zone. Serling was active in politics, both on and off the screen and helped form television industry standards. He was known as the "angry young man" of Hollywood, clashing with television executives and sponsors over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism, and war.
Serling was born December 25, 1924, into a Jewish family in Syracuse, New York, the second of two sons born to Esther (née Cooper) and Samuel Lawrence Serling. Serling's father had worked as a secretary and amateur inventor before having children, but took on his father-in-law's profession as a grocer in order to earn a steady income. Sam Serling later took up the trade of butcher after the Great Depression forced the store to close. Serling's mother was a homemaker.
He and his family spent most of his youth seventy miles south of Syracuse in Binghamton after moving there in 1926. As a performer, he was encouraged by his parents from the start. Sam Serling built a small stage in the basement, where Rod (with or without neighborhood children) often put on plays. Rod's older brother, author Robert, recalled that at the age of six or seven, Serling entertained himself for hours by acting out dialogue from pulp magazines or movies he'd seen. Rod often talked to people around him without waiting for their answers. On an hour-long trip from Binghamton to Syracuse, the rest of the family remained silent to see if Rod would notice their lack of participation. He didn't, talking non-stop through the entire car ride.
In elementary school, Serling was seen as the class clown and dismissed by many of his teachers as a lost cause. However, his seventh grade English teacher, Helen Foley, 'discovered' him and encouraged him to enter the school's public speaking extracurriculars. He joined the debate team and was a speaker at his high school graduation. He began writing for the school newspaper, including scathing pieces which showed his liberal political leanings.
He was also interested in sports, and excelled at tennis and table tennis. When he attempted to join the varsity football team, he was told he was too small at 5'4" tall.
Serling was interested in radio and writing at an early age. He listened to various radio programs, especially thrillers with a fantasy or horror feel. Arch Oboler and Norman Corwin were two of his favorite writers. He also "...did some staff work at a Binghamton radio station...tried to write...but never had anything published." He was accepted into college during his senior year of high school. However, the U.S. was involved in World War II at the time, and Serling decided to enlist rather than start college[ immediately after he graduated from Binghamton Central High School in 1943.