Thurs. 1:45 p.m.: Jim Nabors, who portrayed loveable ‘Gomer Pyle,’ dies at 87
HONOLULU (AP) — Jim Nabors, the shy Alabaman whose down-home comedy made him a TV star as Gomer Pyle and whose surprisingly operatic voice kept him a favorite in Las Vegas and other showplaces, died today. He was 87.
Nabors, who underwent a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B, died peacefully at his home in Hawaii after his health had declined for the past year, said his husband, Stan Cadwallader, who was by his side.
“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed,” Cadwallader said.
The couple married in early 2013 in Washington state, where gay marriage had recently been made legal. Nabors’ friends had known for years that he was gay, but he had never said anything to the media.
“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” Nabors told Hawaii News Now at the time. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”
Nabors became an instant success when he joined “The Andy Griffith Show” in the early 1960s. The character of Gomer Pyle, the unworldly, lovable gas pumper who would exclaim “Gollllll-ly!” proved so popular that in 1964 CBS starred him in “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”
In the spinoff, which lasted five seasons, Gomer left his hometown of Mayberry to become a Marine recruit. His innocence confounded his sergeant, the irascible Frank Sutton.
Audiences saw another side of Nabors in appearances in TV variety programs — his booming baritone. The contrast between his homespun humor (“The tornado was so bad a hen laid the same egg twice”) and his full-throated operatic arias was stunning.