Kevin Hagen, who played kindly Dr. Hiram Baker in “Little House on the Prairie” after being a Western bad guy in numerous character roles, died July 9 at his home in Grants Pass, Ore., a year after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He was 77.
Chicago native was the son of professional ballroom dancers and lived as a teen in Portland, Ore., later attending Oregon State U. He worked for the U.S. State Dept. in Germany, earned a degree in international relations from USC and served in the Navy after World War II and started into UCLA’s law school when, after a year, he dropped out to try acting.
He got his break a year later when a Hollywood agent saw him in Eugene O’Neill’s “Desire Under the Elms,” landing him a part in the TV series “Dragnet.”
His first movie role was 1958 Disney film “The Light in the Forest,” but his long trail as a Westerns heavy started in the 1965 James Stewart starrer “Shenandoah.”
Guest roles followed on “Gunsmoke,” “Rawhide,” and “Cheyenne.” His first regular role came in 1958 series “Yancy Derringer,” as a city administrator of post-Civil War New Orleans. After that he, he was in everything from “Bonanza” to “Perry Mason,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” and “Mission: Impossible.”
But he became best known for his portrayal of Doc Baker in “Little House on the Prairie,” which ran from 1974 to 1983.
Hagen moved to Grants Pass in 1992 after appearing in a celebrity golf tournament, but did not give up acting. He performed a one-man show he wrote based on the Doc Baker character called “A Playful Dose of Prairie Wisdom.”
He is survived by his wife, Jan, and a son.