Robert LaHendro was born in Chicago, Illinois, growing up wanting to work in radio production and graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana with a degree in radio and television production. His first job out of college was at a local television station in West Virginia where he directed news and sports programs. Wanting to work in production for a large network, he moved to Los Angeles and obtained a job as a cue card holder at CBS, where he worked for five years on such shows as The Jack Benny Program and The Red Skelton Show. When a temporary stage manager position opened, he jumped at the chance, hoping it would lead to his ultimate goal of being a director.
After several years as a stage manager he met director John Rich who hired him as an associate director on the new series All in the Family, which became an instant hit. LaHendro’s first directing experience came in 1972 when Norman Lear, also the creator of All in the Family, asked him to fill in for his other series, Sanford and Son. After that first experience helming an episode, LaHendro never went back to being an associate director, and co-directed or directed most of the first four seasons of All in the Family with John Rich. Throughout the 1970s and 80s LaHendro directed for some of the more well-known TV series including Good Times, That’s My Mamma, Welcome Back, Kotter, Fish, Archie Bunker’s Place, Flo, Detective School, Going Bananas, as well as the soap operas Capitol and Santa Barbara, and You Can’t Take It with You.
In 1972 LaHendro was part of John Rich’s winning directorial team as an associate director for All in the Family and was nominated as co-director with John Rich for the series in 1973. LaHendro was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy in 1973 for the same episode of All in the Family.