Dennis Weaver of ‘McCloud,’ ‘Gunsmoke’ Dies at 81

Feb 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Dennis Weaver, star of the TV Western classic “Gunsmoke” and the title character of detective series “McCloud,” died Friday from complications due to cancer. He was 81.

The actor, best known for his portrayal of rustic law enforcers in the two long-running series, died at his home in Ridgway, Colo.

Though he won an Emmy in 1959 as the loyal, drawling Deputy Chester Goode in CBS’s “Gunsmoke,” Mr. Weaver attempted to leave the series for other projects after seven seasons, only to return for a final two years. He was on “Gunsmoke” from 1955 through 1964.

Mr. Weaver had called the role of Det. Sam McCloud the most satisfying of his career, and the NBC hit lasted from 1970 through 1977.

Mr. Weaver was born June 4, 1924, in Joplin, Mo. He served in the Navy during World War II, and his athletic background later at the University of Oklahoma helped him qualify for the Olympic Decathlon. He balanced his track and field training with acting, studying at the Actors Studio in New York and starting his career on the stage.

Recently, Mr. Weaver built on his Western persona by serving as a host for the Starz Encore Western channel and portraying horse farm owner Henry Ritter on ABC Family’s “Wildfire.”

“All of us at ABC Family are saddened to learn of the death of Dennis Weaver,” the network said in a statement. “He was an American legend, not only for his contribution to the acting community but for his extensive and inspirational environmental work.”

Mr. Weaver’s environmental efforts included serving as president of Love Is Feeding Everyone, which fed needy people in Los Angeles County, and founding the Institute of Ecolonomics, which strove to solve environmental and economic issues.

Mr. Weaver is survived by his wife, Gerry Stowell; sons Rick, Robby and Rusty; and three grandchildren.