By Rosy Cordero
April 06, 2020 at 03:41 PM EDT
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James Drury
Credit: Everett Collection

James Drury, star of popular Western series The Virginian, died on Monday from natural causes. He was 85.

Drury's assistant Karen Lyndsey confirmed the news on his official website. "The Cowboy took his last ride," she wrote. "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."

Drury fell in love with the outdoors and horses in particular while spending time on the family's Oregon ranch, which they traveled to often from their home base in New York. He caught the acting bug at age 8, playing King Herod in a Christmas play. He made his debut as a professional actor four years later in the road company production of Life With Father.

He worked on his craft while studying at New York University, where he portrayed 12 roles in Shakespeare productions before leaving the theater in 1954 for Hollywood. After playing bit parts in films under a contract with MGM, he went to 20th Century Fox. He worked on Elvis Presley's film debut in Love Me Tender in 1957, alongside Pat Boone in 1957's Bernadine, ABC westerns Black Saddle and The Rebel, and NBC's Wagon Train.

In 1962, he landed the lead role of ranch foreman in The Virginian, which ran until 1971 and is one of the longest running Westerns on television.

After nine years on the show, he returned to theater and guest-starred on various TV and film projects including The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Walker, Texas Ranger, Kung Fu: TLC, and Hell to Pay.

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