James Drury, best known for playing the titular role on the TV series The Virginian, passed away on April 6, 2020. He was 85.
The news was announced by his assistant Karen Lindsey on the actor’s official Facebook page. She wrote, “THE COWBOY took his last ride. 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.”
Born on April 18, 1934, in New York, the actor opened up about his experience playing The Virginian, which ran for nine seasons, the third-longest running western TV series behind Bonanza and Gunsmoke. In 2012, Drury told Chron, “It was the greatest experience in my life. I never had a bad day at work.”
Last year the actor, who starred in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, lost his wife, Carl Ann Drury, whom he married on July 30, 1979, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was previously wed to Cristall Othones, with whom he shares two children. The couple divorced in 1964. Drury married his second wife, Phyllis Jacqueline Mitchell, in 1968. They divorced in 1979.
However, when Drury married his third wife, Carl Ann, he knew right away that this was forever. “I met a lady here and within a couple days I knew that was it,” he said. And after all this time, “We’re still on our honeymoon. It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with that’s important. She is the morning and evening star for me.” Between the two of them, they had nine children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Drury also appeared on iconic TV series such as Walker, Texas Ranger, Firehouse, Wagon Train and Rawhide. Drury was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1991.
Drury Was Kicked Out of High School Days Before Graduation But Went On To Study Drama At NYU
Drury spent his childhood splitting time between New York and his grandfather’s ranch in Oregon, where he learned to ride horses and developed a love for the outdoors. He attended high school in Los Angeles, but just before receiving his diploma, Drury was expelled from school.
Despite what could’ve been a tragic end to his educational career, the aspiring actor was able to attend New York University, where his father, who was a professor of marketing, was able to pull some strings. During his junior year, he signed a contract with MGM and appeared in small roles in numerous films such as The Tender Trap, The Last Wagon and Forbidden Planet, kicking off what would become a highly successful acting career.
Drury Loved His Fans & Attending Reunion Festivals Because It Offered Him The Chance To Hang Out With His Former Co-Stars
In an interview shared on Medium in 2017, Drury explained how it was thrilling to learn The Virginian still had a dedicated fan base. While he wasn’t a fan of traveling, always preferring to drive over flying in an airplane, Drury was grateful for those who supported the series and the longevity of success it has had.
“Going to these festivals gives me a chance to see a lot of my old friends,” Drury said. “For instance, I always enjoy catching up with my costars on The Virginian, such as Gary Clarke and Roberta Shore, or my buddy, actor Robert Fuller, who guest-starred in two episodes, ‘A Welcoming Town’  and ‘Flight from Memory’ . It’s great to get together with people you worked side by side with over 50 years ago, and it feels like it was yesterday. We all have that immediacy because we remember when we were making films together. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of it.”
Drury’s Son Timothy Drury Is Musician & Songwriter Who’s Toured With The Eagles, Whitesnake & More
Timothy Drury, a keyboardist, singer, and songwriter, has had incredibly successful career. From 1994 to 2000, he toured with the Eagles on their “Hell Freezes Over” tour, and from 2003 to 2007, tour with the band Whitesnake.
Mostely recently, Timothy toured with Don Felder, for whom he was a co-writter on 9 songs featured on the album, Road to Forever. As a songwriter, he co-wrote Don Henley’s “End of Innocence,” and wrote Stevie Nicks’ “That Made Me Stronger,” which was produced by Sheryl Crowe.