James Drury, TV Western Icon and The Virginian star, Dies at 85: 'He Will Be Missed'

Jodi Guglielmi
·1-min read

James Drury, star of one of the longest-running Westerns in the history of television, The Virginian, has died.

Dury’s assistant confirmed his death in a Facebook post, writing that he died of natural causes. He was 85.

“THE COWBOY took his last ride,” Lindsey Karen 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. Memorial service to be determined later.”

Drury was best known for his role as the mysterious, no-name foreman called “The Virginian” on the hit show. The series followed his character as he worked to enforce the law and maintain an orderly lifestyle in 1980s Wyoming at Shiloh Ranch.

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Based on Owen Wister’s 1902 novel of the same name, the NBC series ran for nine seasons from 1962-1971. The Virginian was the third-longest running TV Western, topped only by CBS’s Gunsmoke and NBC’s Bonanza.

Drury was one of two cast members to appear in every season.

Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

“There were times when we had five ‘Virginian’ episodes shooting on the same day,” Drury recalled in his biography. “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.”

Along with The Virginian, the actor also starred in the ABC series Firehouse and appeared on series including, Alias Smith and Jones, The Fall Guy and Walker, Texas Ranger.

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