Western television series “The Virginian” actor James Drury died April 6, 2020 – less than two weeks before his 86th birthday – in Houston, Texas as a result of natural causes.
Drury’s acting career began very early; his first appearance on the stage was a Christmas production of “King Herod” when he was only eight years old. His professional career began four years later in the touring production of “Life With Father”.
“The Virginian” ran for nine years with 249 episodes. A 90 minute how, NBC often had multiple episodes filming at the same time. Drury noted that he would ride from set to set on horseback to deliver his lines. Drury and co-star Doug McClure were the only actors who appeared in every episode. Like the book – “The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains” – Drury’s character never had a name…he was referred to only as “The Virginian”.
Drury made his Hollywood debut in 1955 as a hospital attendant in an uncredited role on “Blackboard Jungle”. From there he went on to appear in dozens of productions including “Forbidden Planet”, “Man Without a Gun”, “The Texan”, the “Zane Grey Theatre”, “Have Gun – Will Travel”, “Cheyenne”, “Gunsmoke”, “The Rifleman”, “Rawhide”, “Wagon Train”, “Alias Smith and Jones”, “Firehouse”, “The Fall Guy”, “Walker, Texas Ranger”, “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues”, and his final role in “Tales of the Cap Gun Kid”. The film “Billy and the Bandit” was in post production at the time of his death.
James Child Drury was born April 18, 1934 in New York City but spent a great deal of time on a family ranch in Oregon where he learned to love horses and the outdoors. He studied acting at New York University where he performed in a dozen Shakespearean plays. Later he appeared in the touring production of the play “California Suite”.
He served in the U.S. Navy Reserve where he reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He put his acting talents to use recording recruiting films for the Navy.
He is a member of the Great Wetern Performers of National Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame.
Predeceased by his wife Carol of nearly 40 years, Drury’s surviveors include children Tim (keyboard player), James, and Frederick; and a grandson.
Feature photo credit: By NBC Television – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18485710