James Best, Sheriff on ‘Dukes of Hazzard,’ Dies at 88

James Best Dead
Image courtesy of JamesBest.com

James Best, a character actor best known for his role as bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on CBS comedy “The Dukes of Hazzard,” died in Hickory, N.C., on April 6 from complications of pneumonia. He was 88.

“The Dukes of Hazzard” ran from 1979-85. Best also voiced the character of Sheriff Coltrane on the 1983 animated series “The Dukes,” reprised the role for reunion movies in 1997 and 2000 and again voiced the character for videogames in 1999 and 2004.

Best was set to appear in the movie “Old Soldiers,” also starring Jake Busey, Doris Roberts, Rance Howard, Hugh O’Brian and Clifton James, but that movie is reported to be in pre-production. Best’s most recent completed project was the 2013 TV movie “The Sweeter Side of Life.”

The actor played the sheriff in the beloved 1972 Martin Ritt film “Sounder,” appeared in 1976 film “Ode to Billy Joe,” had a supporting role in Peter Bogdanovich’s “Nickelodeon” and in Hal Needham’s Burt Reynolds vehicle “Hooper.”

His film work began with 1950 Westerns “Comanche Territory” and Anthony Mann’s Jimmy Stewart starrer “Winchester 73” and continued with Budd Boetticher’s “The Cimarron Kid,” starring Audie Murphy, Arthur Penn’s “The Left Handed Gun,” starring Paul Newman, Stewart starrers “Shenandoah” and “Firecreek,” and many more; he also appeared on many TV Westerns, including “The Gene Autry Show,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “Wagon Train,” “Have Gun — Will Travel,” “Rawhide” and “Bonanza.”

He also appeared in non-Western fare such as WWII film “The Naked and the Dead” (1958), cult horror film “The Killer Shrews” (and its 2012 sequel), Samuel Fuller’s “Shock Corridor” and Jerry Lewis film “Three on a Couch.”

His TV credits also included “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” three episodes of “Twilight Zone,” “Perry Mason,” “The Green Hornet” and “I Spy.”

Jules Franklin Guy was born in Powderly, Kentucky, was orphaned at 3 and adopted by a couple named Best. He served in the Army during WWII. He began his acting career in special services while still in the Army posted in Germany.

He is survived by his wife, actress-producer Dorothy Best, whom he married in 1986, and two daughters from his earlier marriage to Jobee Ayers.

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  1. Sandy Muller says:

    His daughter (the famed Solid Gold dancer) married soap stud Michael Damian. They were (and are) a lovely family. RIP James. A class act.

  2. DoctorB says:

    Guest starred in at least 2 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. Wonder why that wasn’t mentioned, unless I am thinking of someone else. Pretty sure that was him as the guitar player though.

    • fanof1964 says:

      Right you are, DoctorB. He played local guitar sensation, Jim Lindsey, on The Andy Griffith Show in 2 episodes. That’s what I think of as his claim to fame.

  3. He was a fine actor! We lost another!

  4. MerryMarjie says:

    He was in so many of those old TV programs and I remember him best from those rather than the “Dukes” series. He was an accomplished actor who gave a good performance every time he appeared so he was always busy. He will be missed.

  5. Hitchcock Presents episode “The Jar” was written by James Bridges from story by Ray Bradbury. James Best was brilliant as was entire cast. Really a small masterpiece to search for and see.

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