Jim Nabors, who portrayed the jovial Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show before branching out with his own series, died early Thursday morning at his home in Hawaii. He was 87.
Producer Phil Arnone first divulged the news to Hawaii News Now, stating Nabors died around 3 a.m. Nabors had been suffering from poor health for some time. Nabors’ husband, Stan Cadwallader, later confirmed to the Associated Press.
Born in Alabama in 1930, Nabors attended the University of Alabama, after which he headed for New York for a brief time to work as a typist for the United Nations. He eventually moved back to the country and, later, further out west on account of his struggles with asthma.
Nabors was discovered while performing at a cabaret theatre in Santa Monica, California, where he was asked by Andy Griffith to audition for the part of Gomer Pyle, a lovable gas station clerk — a role he debuted on The Andy Griffith Show in 1962 and continued through Gomer Pyle: USMC, due to the character’s popularity.
“It got down to what you think you want to be, an actor or an entertainer. I want to entertain,” he said of retiring the character in 1969 (via The Hollywood Reporter). “I don’t think I’m much of an actor. The only part I ever played was Gomer. I’m the most surprised person around that I’m successful anyway.”
Nabors went on to appear in films like The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Stroker Ace, and Cannonball Run II, as well as TV series like The Carol Burnett Show, The Love Boat, and The Julie Andrews Hour.
Nabors married Cadwallader, his longtime partner, in January 2013. “I’m 82 and he’s in his 60s and so we’ve been together for 38 years and I’m not ashamed of people knowing, it’s just that it was such a personal thing, I didn’t tell anybody,” Nabors told HNN at the time. “I’m very happy that I’ve had a partner of 38 years and I feel very blessed. And, what can I tell you, I’m just very happy.”