Liz was the pretty and kind-hearted guidance counsler who truly cared about her students at Walt Whitman High School.
The green-eyed beauty was a favorite of the male students, but her heart belonged to history teacher Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes), her love interest on the show.
"Room 222" was considered a progressive TV show at the time -- the first series to give top billing to two African-American actors, Denise and Haynes. Previously, only Diahann Carroll's "Julia" had featured a black actor as its star.
Denise told PBS that "Room 222" was "a natural blossoming of all that had happened in the '60s. It was a show that was integrated, fully integrated. A show that dealt with issues, not knocking people over the head, but in a light, sometimes dramatic, sometimes comedic fashion. In a sense, it really wasn't groundbreaking, it was just groundbreaking for television."
ABC promoted Walt Whitman High as a school "where teachers really understand their students, where students are eager to learn." The series was one of the first shows that bounced from humor to seriousness as it dealt with the issues of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
To capture the flavor of student life at a big-city school, "Room 222" writers hung out in the classrooms at Los Angles High School.
Denise was a Detroit native who appeared on the cover of "Jet" magazine at age 16, not for her entertainment achievements but as a future teacher prospect. Her acting background was on the stage; she went from working at the St. Marks Playhouse in New York to a role on the TV series "It Takes a Thief" to "Room 222."
She was nominated for one Emmy and two Golden Globes in "Room 222," but the show's ratings weren't strong enough to keep it on the air after the fifth season (1974).
Denise reappeared on TV on "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World," then resumed a starring role 20 years after "Room 222" as city councilwoman Harriet DeLong in "In The Heat of the Night."
Classic TV Beauties 1970s Countdown
DENISE NICHOLAS as Liz McIntyre in "Room 222"
Denise's character made history as one of TV's first inter-racial marriages when she wed the town's white sheriff Bill Gillespie, played by Carroll O'Connor. Ironically, years earlier O'Connor played bigot Archie Bunker in "All in the Family." Denise also wrote six episodes of the show.
"For a black child from Detroit to start a career with [Room 222] and to end my acting career with 'In The Heat of the Night,' they were quality shows, shows I could be extremely proud of. Shows where women were in good positions. To have bookended my career with those kind of roles, that was heaven for me."
Denise "retired" from acting to devote herself to writing fulltime, and emerged with a critically acclaimed novel, "Freshwater Road," published in 2005. New York Newsday called the book, "perhaps the best work of fiction about the civil rights movement."