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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 1, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 48
Jim Nabors dies at 87
Section One
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Jim Nabors dies at 87

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Jim Nabors, TV's Gomer Pyle, died at his home in Hawaii on November 30. He was 87.

According to the Associated Press, the announcement of Nabors' death was made by his husband, Stan Cadwallader. The couple married on January 15, 2013, at Seattle's Fairmont Olympic Hotel after being together for 38 years.

Nabors was born in Sylacauga, Alabama. His distinctive Gomer Pyle accent was natural, not put on for the part.

After graduating from the University of Alabama, he moved to New York and worked as a secretary at the United Nations.

'With my thick accent, people would try out different languages on me, never suspecting I was speaking English,' he later joked.

Nabors soon moved to Los Angeles to break into show business. In the early 1960s, he was a regular performer at the Horn, a cabaret in Santa Monica that showcased new talent.

There he was spotted by Andy Griffith, who thought Nabors would be perfect to play a character on his CBS sitcom, 'The Andy Griffith Show,' set in the mythical Mayberry, North Carolina. Nabors was cast as Gomer, cousin of Goober, played by George Lindsey.

Although Nabors was signed for just one episode in the show's third season in 1962, the dim-witted but good-natured character proved to be popular, and Nabors went on to appear in 23 installments of the series.

In 1964, Nabors got his own spin-off series, 'Gomer Pyle USMC,' which ran until 1969. The show featured Nabors' character being hounded by by-the-book drill sergeant Vince played by Frank Sutton.

Although the show reached number two in ratings in its 1969 season, Nabors quit it to pursue other opportunities, including hosting his own variety show.

'It got down to what you think you want to be: an actor or an entertainer. I want to entertain,' Nabors said in 1969. '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 later admitted that he could not bear to watch the opening sequence from the series - a shot featuring him marching out of step with a line of actual Marines - because so many of the men he was marching with ended up being killed in Vietnam.

In the 1970s, Nabors starred with Ruth Buzzi as time-traveling androids on the ABC series 'The Lost Saucer.'

He first demonstrated his singing voice to TV viewers in 1964 on CBS's 'The Danny Kaye Show,' and on a Gomer Pyle episode that aired in November 1967, he sang 'The Impossible Dream' from Man of La Mancha. The song would become a concert staple for him. His 1980 album, The Heart-Touching Magic of Jim Nabors, went platinum.

In 1975, Nabors met his partner, Stan Cadwallader, in Honolulu, and the two remained together ever since. Although Nabors regularly brought Cadwallader to his gigs, the two were semi-closeted and never publicly discussed the nature of their relationship till their 2013 marriage.

In spite of a 1994 liver transplant, Nabors remained active in show business, doing an annual stage show in Honolulu and singing the opening number at the Indianapolis 500 until 2014.

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