HICKORY, N.C.—James Best, 88, the actor best known for his portrayal of bumbling yet endearing Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on TV’s “The Dukes of Hazzard,” died at 9:28 p.m. ET Monday in the care of hospice after a brief illness and complications of pneumonia.
The youngest of eight brothers and a sister, James was born Jewel Franklin Guy in Powderly, Ky., on July 26, 1926, to parents Lena Mae Everly Guy (sister of Ike Everly, who was father of musical legends Don and Phil) and Larkin Jasper Guy. After spending a short time in an orphanage following his mother’s death in 1929, the young boy was adopted by Essa and Armen Best and moved with them to their home in Corydon, Ind.
In 1944 he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps being trained for being a gunner and radio operator. He then was transferred into the Military Police and then into Special Services in the Military Theatrical Company where he had his first role playing a drunk in director Arthur Penn’s production in Germany of My Sister Eileen.
After the war, Best headed to New York City with visions of Broadway. He ended up honing his acting skills in winter stock and summer stock productions. He also did some fashion modeling, which got him noticed by an influential Hollywood casting director that led to Hollywood to act in 83 movies and 600 TV shows.
Best was also a respected painter of oils and watercolors, had a black belt in karate and founded a school for motion-picture technique for actors. He had expertise in writing, directing and performing in plays.
Best was also devoted to dogs and would advocate for their humane treatment.
For a full account of the life of James Best visit his website at www.jamesbest.com and his biography at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0078940/bio.
As full and accomplished as Jimmie’s professional career was, family and friends made his life complete. In 1986, he married actress Dorothy Collier, the love of his life and partner in all things for several years before their marriage and his beloved wife for the next 29 years, until his passing.
He is also survived by son Gary Allen Best and wife Angela, daughter JoJami Best Tyler and husband Eric, and daughter Janeen Damian and husband Michael Damian; and by grandchildren Lauren Best, Cameron Tyler and Tessa Tyler.
Private arrangements are pending.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to a local humane society of choice.
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