James Drury, star of NBC’s long-running Western series ‘The Virginian,’ dies at 85

James Drury — the star of the Western series, “The Virginian” — has died. He was 85.

The actor’s assistant, Karen Lindsey, confirmed his death in a Facebook post, stating that he died of natural causes on Monday.

“THE COWBOY took his last ride,” Lindsey wrote. “It is with immense sadness that I let you all know that James Drury, our beloved Virginian and dear friend passed away this morning of natural causes, Monday, April 6, 2020. He will be missed so much. It is beyond words.”

Lindsey added that a memorial service will be determined at a later date.

Drury was born on April 18, 1934, in New York City. Growing up, he spent a lot of time on his family’s ranch in Oregon, and it was there that he developed a love for horses and the outdoors.

He first started acting at the age of 8 when he starred as Herod in a children’s Christmas play. Drury, who was trained as an actor at New York University, left the theatre in New York for Hollywood in 1954.

He went on to appear in films like “Blackboard Jungle,” “Forbidden Planet,” “The Tender Trap,” “Love Me Tender,” “The Last Wagon,” “Pollyanna,” “Ten Who Dared,” “Ride the High Country,” among others.

Drury also guest-starred on TV series including, “Playhouse 90,” “Gunsmoke,” “Rifleman,” “Cheyenne,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Perry Mason,” “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide,” “Death Valley Days,” before he landed the role in “The Virginian” in 1962.

The NBC series ran for nine seasons until 1971. According to Variety, “The Virginian” had the third-longest run of any TV Western. It was topped only by CBS’s “Gunsmoke” and NBC’s “Bonanza. Drury and co-star Doug McClure appeared in all 249 episodes.

“There were times when we had five Virginian episodes shooting on the same day,” Drury recalled in his biography on his website. “I would literally ride on horseback from set to set to give two lines here, three lines there, then over here to do 10 pages of script.”

Following “The Virginian,”  Drury appeared in a handful of projects, including the 1974 show, “Firehouse,” “The Fall Guy” in 1983, and “Walker, Texas Ranger” in 1993.

His third wife, Carl Ann, died in August 2019. They were married for over 40 years