Born in Chicago in 1926, Richardson trained for the stage at the Goodman Theatre there. After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he moved to New York and worked in off-Broadway productions. In the 1950s, he worked on television drama programs. In the 1960s, he moved to Minneapolis where he was one of the founders of the Guthrie Theater. In addition to being a popular character actor, he was also a popular voice for television commercials and had more than 100 ads to his credit.