It didn’t make all that big of a splash, but James Arness died Friday.
He was 88 and it didn’t come as a surprise. He’d not been in the best of health for some time.
But whether you realize it or not, he will be missed.
James Arness, of course, was Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke” and impacted our formative years.
He was a celebrity who could be looked up to.
Not that he was perfect, but as was the case with Clayton Moore who portrayed the Lone Ranger, Arness was proud that so many young people looked up to him.
He was a celebrity at a time when the honor that was bestowed by our culture brought with it responsibilities, and Arness did not shirk them.
On his website, where fans have kept up with him in recent years, here is what was written about his passing:
He served his country in the army during World War II at Anzio. He was wounded in his right leg and received the Purple Heart.
He is best known for his role of Marshal Matt Dillon in the TV series “Gunsmoke.”
“Gunsmoke” ran from 1955-1975 and is still on the air today being discovered by many old and new fans alike.
Over the 20 years of “Gunsmoke” he worked with hundreds of actors, some of them just starting out, like Harrison Ford, Burt Reynolds, Charles Bronson, and Betty Davis.
His acting debut was in a movie called “The Farmer’s Daughter,” opposite Loretta Young. He worked for the John Wayne’s film production company Batjac and made movies with John Wayne including “Islands in the Sky,” “Hondo,” “The Sea Chase” and “Big Jim McLain.”
“The Thing,” which aired in 1951 is a sci-fi classic and Jim’s 6’7” height made the creature more believable.
He acted in many movies before he started “Gunsmoke.” Later he went on to do the mini series “How the West Was Won” and “McLain’s Law.”
Jim will be deeply missed by his family and friends. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donation be made to United Cerebral Palsy in Jim’s name.
Jim is survived by his wife, Janet, two sons and six grandkids. The services will be private for family only.
Losing a celebrity like James Arness just highlights how desperately our culture could use more like him, today.
— Chuck Smith