US comic actor Jim Nabors, TV’s beloved Gomer Pyle, dies at 87

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 1:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 1:12pm

Jim Nabors, who created the beloved comic TV character Gomer Pyle and used his surprisingly rich baritone voice on several hit records, died Thursday at the age of 87, his assistant Charisse Gines said.

“He passed away this morning at his home in Hawaii” of multiple causes, she said, speaking from the actor’s Honolulu-based entertainment company Naborly Productions. “He’d been ill for a while.”

Nabors’ husband, Stan Cadwallader, told news media the actor’s immune system had been suppressed since a liver transplant in 1994.

Nabors’ roles – first as the gullible but endearing auto mechanic Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and then as a good-hearted if inept Marine on a spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. – made him one of the more beloved television actors of the 1960s.

His patented phrases like “Gawww-leee,” “Surprise, surprise, surprise” and “Shazam!” were instantly recognisable, delivered in a high-pitched Southern drawl that contrasted sharply to his sonorous baritone singing voice.

After his shows went off the air, Nabors bounced between the stage, concert tours, the occasional television role – he struggled with being typecast – and full-length movies, three of them with his friend Burt Reynolds.

His liver transplant followed a near-fatal bout of hepatitis B in the 1990s, which he said he contracted while shaving with a razor purchased in India.

Although many people in Hollywood knew that Nabors was gay, “I haven’t ever made a public spectacle of it,” he said in 2013.

That year he married Cadwallader, a one-time firefighter who had been his partner for 38 years.

Additional reporting by Associated Press