James Drury, the star of NBC's long-running Western TV series The Virginian, died from natural causes on Mon., April 6. He was 85.
"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," wrote his personal assistant, Karen Lindsey, on Facebook. "He will be missed so much. It is beyond words. Memorial service to be determined later."
The New York City native fell in love with horses and the outdoors during childhood visits to a family ranch in Oregon.
After studying at New York University as a Shakespearian actor, Drury came to Hollywood, where he starred on the big screen in Frank Sinatra's The Tender Trap (1955), the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet (1956), Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender (1956), Disney's Pollyanna (1960) and Randolph Scott's Ride the High Country (1962). Around that same time, Drury paved the way for his best-known role by appearing in some of the top Western series: Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Cheyenne, Wagon Train, Rawhide and Death Valley Days. Additional television work included Perry Mason and Firehouse.
From 1962 to 1971, Drury and co-star Doug McClure appeared in The Virginian (also known as The Men From Shiloh), a TV Western trailing only Gunsmoke and Bonanza when it comes to longevity. The Virginian was loosely based on a 1902 Western novel by Owen Wister.
Drury re-surfaced in the '90's for roles that honored his Western film past. First came early episodes of Walker Texas Ranger, then a recurring role in The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. He also made cameo appearances in the third installment of Kenny Rogers' The Gambler films and the 1994 version of Maverick.
After his career, Drury became involved in the oil and natural gas business in Houston, Texas. He was inducted in 1991 into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
His son Timothy Drury is a rock keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist known for his work with Whitesnake and The Eagles.