Jim Nabors, Gomer Pyle On ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ Dies At 87
Jim Nabors, who was beloved for playing Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show, has passed away at age 87.
JIM NABORS DEAD AT 87
Nabors died peacefully in his home in Hawaii after his health had declined for the past few years. His husband Stan Cadwallader was with him by his side. Nabors underwent a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B. Cadwallader shared that Nabors had a series of tests done on Wednesday and the decision was made to bring him home from the hospital so he could be comfortable. While the coroner has not released a cause of death, Cadwallader says it was natural causes.
“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man,” he said. “And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed.” The couple wed in 2013 in Washington State, where gay marriage had been made legal. “It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” Nabors said at the time. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”
Nabors became a hit when he joined The Andy Griffith Show in the early 1960s. Gomer Pyle, the lovable gas pumper with the catchphrase “Golly!” became so popular, that CBS introduced his own show in 1964 called Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. The spinoff lasted five seasons, and saw Pyle leave his hometown of Mayberry to become a Marine.
Audiences saw another side of Nabors on his various appearances on variety shows, where he would show off his impressive operatic baritone voice. In 1969, CBS created The Jim Nabors Hour, which featured Nabors as host to guest stars, a country and opera singer, and a sketch comedy artist. The show lasted for two seasons.
Once known for his innocence as Gomer Pyle, Nabors proved it was part of his framework as well, when he admitted in 1969 that he didn’t trust his fame and success. “For the first four years of the series, I didn’t trust my success. Every weekend and on every vacation, I would take off to play nightclubs and concerts, figuring the whole thing would blow over some day,” he said. “You know somethin’? I still find it difficult to believe this kind of acceptance. I still don’t trust it.”
After his variety show came to an end, Nabors continued his career in music, recording more than two dozen albums and singing with the Dallas and St. Louis symphony orchestras. In the 1970s, he moved to a 500-acre macadamia ranch in Hawaii, though continued to do infrequent TV gigs. In the late ’70s, the actor appeared for 10 months of the year at Hilton hotels in Hawaii for shows, though that ended when he got an ulcer. “I was completely burned out,” he recalled later. “I’d had it with the bright lights.”
In the early 1980s, his friendship with Burt Reynolds landed him roles in Stroker Ace, Cannonball II, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He took back up concert performing in 1985, but at a much less intense pace. One of his regular gigs became singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500 each year, which he first did in 1972.
“I’ve never thought of (the audience reaction) as relating to me,” Nabors said. “It’s always relating to the song and to the race. It is applauding for the tradition of the race and the excitement.” He missed the performance in 2007 due to illness but returned the next year. “It’s the main part of my year,” he said then. “It just thrills you to your bones.”
In 1991, Nabors received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Friends Carol Burnett, Loni Anderson, Phyllis Diller, and Florence Henderson all attended the ceremony, at which he said his signature, “Golly!”