Van Williams, the titular star of the ’60s crime-fighting serial The Green Hornet, died on Nov. 28 of renal failure in Scottsdale, Arizona, his wife Vicki told The New York Times. He was 82.
Van Zandt Jarvis Williams was born Feb. 27, 1934, in Fort Worth, Texas and attended college in town at Texas Christian University. He was working as a diving instructor in Hawaii when producer Mike Todd found him in 1957 and cast him as private eye Kenny Madison in the 1959 detective series Bourbon Street Beat. He reprised the role in the show’s sequel series, Surfside 6.
Both shows led to Williams landing the leading role in The Green Hornet (1966) as Britt Reid, a suave newspaper owner by day and masked vigilante by night. Martial arts legend Bruce Lee got his start in acting by appearing as his sidekick, Kato. Williams and Lee also acted in crossover Batman episodes. The series was adapted from a 1930s radio show and was the basis for the 2011 film starring Seth Rogen.
Williams also made cameos in The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Beverly Hillbillies during the ’60s. His last credit was for the 1993 biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.
Williams is survived by his wife of 57 years, Vicki; his children, Nina, Tia, and Britt; and his five grandchildren.