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In Memoriam: James Best

April 11, 2015

James Best, the actor well-known for his role as bumbling, lovable Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard passed away. He died Monday, April 6, 2015 due to complications of pneumonia. He was 88 years-old.

Best was the youngest in a large family born to Lena Mae Everly Guy and Larkin Jasper Guy. After his mother died in 1929 he was adopted by Essa and Armen Best, and his name was changed to James Best. After graduating high school in 1944 he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps and he trained to be a gunner and radio operator. He went on to work with the military police and used the position to join the military theatrical company. His first role was as a drunk in My Sister Eileen.

After the war he headed to New York City and did some fashion modeling which led to his discovery by a Hollywood casting director. Among his film roles, Best worked with James Stewart in Winchester and Paul Newman in The Left Handed Gun. He worked on some of the greatest TV shows of the 50s and 60s such as The Gene Autry Show, Frontier, Cavalcade of America, Wagon Train, Stagecoach West, The Andy Griffith Show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Rawhide, Death Valley Days, Perry Mason, Bonanza, I Spy, and Gunsmoke.

Best was lured to The Dukes of Hazzard by the prospect of working with friend Denver Pyler and filming in Georgia where there was great fishing potential. He had played plenty of rough around the edges characters before this and had gained a reputation as a rebel in Hollywood. It was comical to see him as a blundering fool who tried to stop the rule bending Duke boys. After several seasons, two reunion movies, and plenty of festivals and fan conventions has garnered popularity for the show for generations.

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