‘Dukes of Hazzard’ Actor James Best Dies
James Best, an accomplished actor known for portraying the bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard, died Monday evening (April 6). He was 88.
Best passed away in hospice in Hickory, N.C., after a brief illness and complications of pneumonia.
Born Jewel Franklin Guy on July 26, 1926, in Powderly, Ky., Best was the youngest of eight boys and one girl born to Larkin Jasper Guy and Lena Mae Everly Guy, all with country music in their blood: His maternal uncle, Ike Everly, was the father of Don and Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers. Sadly, Best and his siblings were orphaned when Best was three years old, but he was soon adopted by Armen and Essa Best, who renamed him James -- per his request -- and raised him in rural Indiana.
Best joined the U.S. Army Air Corps after high school and served in Germany with the military police during World War II. He moved to New York City after the war, then began pursuing his dreams of acting and moved to Hollywood to chase a career. It paid off, as he earned several supporting roles in the 1950s and 1960s, including on popular television shows such as The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, The Andy Griffith Show and Gunsmoke.
Best also appeared in Burt Reynolds' films Hooper and The End, and Reynolds was one of many celebrities who paid homage to the great actor.
"I was fortunate enough to call him my friend since the day he walked on the set of Gunsmoke back in the early '60s," Reynolds says in a statement. "Onset or off, behind the scenes, in front of a class or just as a friend, his name was so fitting because he was truly the 'best' at whatever he did. My heart is heavy, and I miss him deeply."
When The Dukes of Hazzard began in 1979, it was clear that Best had met his destiny. Every Friday night for seven seasons, his slow-witted and goofy character chased the Duke boys, trying to outwit them -- and crashed his patrol car more times than not. The show ran until 1985, inspiring TV movies, an animated series and video games.
Best's last completed film was 2013’s Hallmark movie The Sweeter Side of Life, although he was scheduled for a feature film about World War II veterans and was in the middle of writing a screenplay about the Civil War.
A lover of life, Best stated poignantly in his autobiography, “God be willing, maybe I will touch my rainbow one more time before He takes my hand and leads me to eternity.”
The acting great is survived by actress Dorothy Collier (his wife of 29 years), son Gary Allen Best and wife Angela, daughter JoJami Best Tyler and husband Eric, daughter Janeen Damian and husband Michael Damian and three grandchildren, Lauren Best, Cameron Tyler and Tessa Tyler.
Funeral arrangements will be kept private. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to a local humane society.
The Boot extends our condolences to Best's wife, family and loved ones.
Country Stars Who Died in 2014