Famous for his blustering, larger-than-life persona, Willard Waterman was an actor and radio persona for more than 20 years. Starting off as an engineering student at the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1930s, Waterman's true passions always remained in theater and radio, and he spent his free time acting in student theater and radio productions.
In 1936 Waterman moved to Chicago where his radio career took off, starting with a role in the NBC series "The Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters," and developing into one of his most famous roles playing Gildersleeve in "The Great Gildersleeve." He stayed with the show until 1955, when it went off the air, and then continued in the part in TV syndication.
Over the years, Waterman became more involved in television and theater productions, playing the role of Claude Upson in the 1958 movie version of "Auntie Mame," as well as in numerous stage productions of the play. He also appeared in the national company of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," a Broadway revival of "Pajama Game" and several Los Angeles stage shows.
Over the years he was heard regularly on "Chicago Theatre of the Air" and "The First Nighter Program," as the prison parolee on the soap opera "Guiding Light," as the pompous father in "Those Websters" and as Sheriff Mike Shaw in "The Tom Mix Ralston Straightshooters," based on Mix's adventures as a soldier of fortune before he became a cowboy film star.
He also was a founding member of the American Federation of Radio Artists, now the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, in 1937.