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Gunsmoke’s Last Survivors

October 3, 2011

UPDATE: 02-10-14

There’s been a lot of interest in Roger Ewing so I dug out much more info on him. See it here.


It’s been 36 years since Gunsmoke left the airwaves, but TV’s favorite western lives on in re-runs. However, most of the main characters from the show have ridden into the final sunset. At this writing, only three are still with us.

Burt Reynolds (born 02-11-1936) now 75, played half-breed blacksmith Quint Asper from 1962 to 1965. This was Reynold’s first major acting role. Milburn Stone (Doc) once told Burt Reynolds that he should quit Gunsmoke because he had a future in movies. Apparently Doc knew what he was talking about because everyone knows what Burt’s been doing since he left the show.

Roger Ewing (born 01-12-1942) now 69, played deputy Clayton Thaddeus “Thad” Greenwood for two seasons from 1965 to 1967. When Roger left Gunsmoke, he seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth. There are very few pictures of him when he was on Gunsmoke, and finding a recent one of him was almost impossible. That’s why the quality of the bottom photo of him (taken around 2008) is so poor. It was extracted from a group photo taken when he ran for the Moro Bay, California city council. He put it this way in a rare communication with one of his fans in 2012:
“It’s been 40+ years since I was last involved in ‘show biz’, and I have appreciated my anonymity all these years. I am not one to seek ‘fame & recognition’… I am a very private person and not experienced in today’s ‘world of celebrity'”.

Buck Taylor (born 05-13-1938) now 73, played gunsmith and part-time deputy Newly O’Brien from 1967 to 1975 when the show finally ended. These three guys had one thing in common… They were all cast for the purpose of bringing youth and new energy to the aging Gunsmoke series. My problem with them was that they were too “pretty” for the old west and that factor detracted from the shows believability. Buck Taylor, however, ripened with age into a guy who looks like he just rode in from a cattle drive. He never stopped acting in western films or painting watercolors depicting the old west. In 1981, Buck was inducted as a trustee in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for his role as Newly on Gunsmoke. In 2000, he was memorialized in the Dodge City “Trail of Fame”. He has received the “Golden Boot” award and the “Spirit of the West” award. He continues to make appearances at almost every western event across the country. The old west truly resides within Buck Taylor.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2012 1:38 PM

    Why iclude Milburn Stone in the first page. Wasn’t he the first to go?

    • December 21, 2012 4:24 PM

      I don’t understand your question. This post is about the actors who are still living. You’re right that Milburn Stone (Doc) was the first original main castmember to die in 1980. Glenn Strange (Sam the Bartender) died before Doc in 1973, but he didn’t join the cast until 1962 – 7 years into the show.

      Amanda Blake (Kitty) was the second original to go in 1989, followed by Ken Curtis (Festus – also not an original) in 1991, Dennis Weaver (Chester) in 2006, and James Arness (Matt) in 2011.

  2. Teri Sullivan permalink
    March 1, 2013 2:20 PM

    May they all rest in peace.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    March 2, 2013 9:24 PM

    i would like to know about cast member louie pheebers the town drunk on gunsmoke

  4. May 2, 2013 1:27 AM

    Such a Gunsmoke fan. Thanks for the article on these three. I really wanted to know about Roger Ewing and what happened to him.

    • May 2, 2013 12:36 PM

      Thank YOU! I get a lot of hits on this post – mostly from people wondering about Roger Ewing. It took a lot of digging to find out what happened to him after the show. He likes to stay under the radar. Read Roger Ewing’s Bio here.

  5. cookie permalink
    May 7, 2013 2:20 PM

    Thanks for all the info you provide!

  6. July 24, 2013 7:23 PM

    Strandedalien,I think you’d like my song lyrics Wild West Jess.You can google it.Don’t let it take you to Wild West Jesse or Jesse James.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    December 5, 2013 3:23 PM

    I was interested in Roger Ewing because I just saw him yesterday in rerun on Encore Western. I love the original 1/2 hr Marshall Dillon shows, because they seem so much more realistic than the hour black and whites and especially the color ones. The character of Festus seems particularly annoying to me. Listening to him gets tiresome and the novelty wears off. Good acting, though, James Arness was even better than I realized and you could see him growing In the role.

  8. Patsy Chriscoe permalink
    January 3, 2014 6:38 PM

    Thank you for all this information…very interesting. And I think Buck Taylor is the Ultimate Cowboy!

  9. January 15, 2014 8:18 PM

    Thanks for the info. My husband and I look forward to gunsmoke every night. I too like the 30 ;minute episodes. I like Chester and the fact that he takes his job seriously. He is easy to watch. I also find Festus a bit annoying. On the other hand, my husband loves the bickering between Doc and Festus. It is so comforting to know that no matter how tough the situation gets, the good guys will win.

  10. Jeff permalink
    January 18, 2014 1:20 PM

    I think there is a lot of interest in Roger “Thad” Ewing in Gunsmoke for a couple reasons. First his character just disappeared from the show with no explanation. They explained away other characters. Kitty moved back to New Orleans. Sam had died, Quint and Chester had both moved on to California. The show was picking up steam the years Thad was a character. The last year of B&W and first year of color. The writing was still strong and they weren’t under the pressure to tone down the violence yet.

  11. Barry permalink
    May 29, 2014 10:47 AM

    It is and always will be my personal favorite and I love to see an episode that I don’t remember. Happy Trails All !

  12. BirdogMike permalink
    June 13, 2014 11:22 PM

    : I’ve been a gunsmoke fan for as long as I can remember. I’m 60yr.old now & I still watch Gunsmoke for 3hrs a day on TVLand & I watch both shows on Encore daily. HELL I need a life. Altho most all on the old cast members have past on there’s one that should be mentioned as a parttime cast member. That’s Morgan Woodward. He is still around and he played several different parts on Gunsmoke. I think he was on 19 shows the 3rd most guest stars. Morgan & Bruce Dern both always played some mean characters. It’s becoming harder & harder to find some of the old Western Actors still around.

    • June 14, 2014 12:29 PM

      Funny you should mention Morgan Woodward. One of my favorite episodes was “The Sodbusters” from 1972. Woodward played Lamoor Underwood, a man who had been on the range long before the westward expansion and didn’t like the way settlers were moving in and taking over. He gave one of the most dramatic soliloquies ever as he explained to Matt how he felt. Here are some pieces of it:
      “Sodpounders, Dillon! What they doin’ to the land! How they aim to respect this land when they’s always ajabbin’ at it… rippin’ at the sweet breast of it… and afoulin’ it so’s it can’t never take marriage to the sun again?
      Them sodbusters don’t own this land, Dillon. They ain’t never left their blood in the grass, holdin’ it from Injuns, n’ bears, ‘n blizzards, n’ droughts, ‘n anything else the devil can throw at you. Sodpounders! Useless, hymn-singin’, tea-drinkin’ virgins with hoes. I hate ’em! I’m gonna drive ’em out. They poison the land. [Stink holds tight to the tooth like skunkjuice.]”

      It’s an episode well worth seeing and I’m glad to hear the Woodward is still around.

  13. Jo johnson permalink
    August 7, 2014 7:15 PM

    I love gunsmoke and watch it twice a day on dishnet. I grew up with it from the beginning show. I have looked up all the main characters on the internet. I hope it stays on the test of my life. 72 yr old great granny. Jo Johnson

  14. September 5, 2014 8:15 PM

    Wish they could have had a ending instead of just canceling it and leaving every one hanging on the last episode. Met James Arness once, and he was a real kind man and human being. Ken Curtis to. Met him at a county fair in eastern Washington 1 year before he died. He was a real cut up and card. I’ll bet he was fun on the set. I read James was a real joker and played pranks on the cast all the time. No wonder all the big actors of the time liked to get on that show and really show their talents and versatility. Jim took care of his friends and old actors by giving them small bit parts to keep them working and in the public eye, and they could fade away with class and some dignity. Miss them all. God rest them all.

    • Barry permalink
      September 5, 2014 8:28 PM

      I wish they could bring them all back, I go to net flex to see the old ones ,and I still watch Andy Griffiths too, No one can write scripts like those any more . all those writers died with the great actors too . It never will be that great again ! Barry from Birmingham !

  15. October 19, 2014 7:38 AM

    I bet I am the biggest Gunsmoke fanatic out there. I don’t work. All I do is watch Gunsmoke everyday on TV land, 7 days a week. 365 days a year. It sort of hits home with me because I grew up on a ranch. I wish I would have met Matt Dillon before he died. Heck, I am watching Gunsmoke now on my computer at 5am. because I can’t sleep…Oh well…

    • March 26, 2015 11:23 AM

      I would be happy doing nothing but that. Sounds like a healthy addiction to have.

  16. Gary permalink
    March 24, 2015 8:54 PM

    And It’s said Amanda was one of the first Actresses to die from Aids

    • March 26, 2015 11:18 AM

      I hope you’re wrong about that. It sounds like an urban myth and should be investigated. I heard she died of lung cancer.

  17. Anonymous permalink
    March 26, 2015 1:01 PM

    Sadly, Amanda Blake dying of aids is not an urban legend. She may not have been the first American actress to so. She had a sleazeball boyfriend (younger) that gave her the disease.

  18. Archie Moore permalink
    April 27, 2015 11:14 AM

    Still love Gunsmoke re-runs. Those were the great old days, getting up watching Cowboy movies and Gunsmoke. Always will love the cowboys movies. We need to keep the old western movies going. Thanks, Archie Moore

  19. Anonymous permalink
    June 25, 2015 6:48 AM

    as with the others, gunsmoke will always be a favorite. it sure beats the new shows that have all the filthy language & nudity. that’s not acting. everyone on the show was really good. i remember when dennis weaver was on the show & burt reynolds. but i also remember NEWLY O’BRIEN. what a guy !! he was so handsome !! and always cared so much for everyone on the show, even some of the people that were wanted but they were innocent. even taking time to heal their wounds when they were hurt

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 25, 2015 2:17 PM

      Like I always say, we need more police officers that could handle themselves in the same manner as Dillon, Hagan, O’Brien, and Thad. With all the stuff going on today, we just need cops that can take a page out of history or fictitious folklore on Gunsmoke, and not get so uptight over a guy drinking, or speeding, or acting up in any way. Remember when someone was drunk at a bar and breaking bottles on the mirror, that wasn’t even a crime. They just walked in and stopped him single handedly without hurting him. Today he would be shot down like a dog for nothing. I don’t act up but I see the show Cops on TV. They are so scared to handle anyone, that they use excessive force. No way Dillon would do that. That’s all I have to say about that.

  20. Daniel H. Gray permalink
    October 21, 2015 2:31 PM

    This was a wonderful series with some wonderful people, may the TV continue to show them so that people will know how great this nation was during this time. May the good lord watch over the actors that portrayed the people in this wonderful work of art.

    Dan Gray Odessa, Texas

  21. Jeff permalink
    October 21, 2015 5:46 PM

    Me-TV has announced that that they will be airing the B & W 60 minutes episodes starting in October ’15. That’s great because, in my opinion, they were the best. First airing on free TV in decades.

  22. Ray Blackwell permalink
    December 21, 2015 2:47 PM

    I have tried over and over again to have a sign autographs of buck Taylor. And was told I would get one. It been over a year now and no picture of him.I been a big fan for many many years. Can someone please help me.

  23. March 6, 2016 10:47 AM

    Here in England we are lucky enough to watch Gunsmoke for nothing. I love it and my wife falls asleep while I watch. Maurice (70).

    • saul permalink
      March 7, 2016 10:52 AM

      Good to hear that yall in Britain are watching the show. I’ve lived in Texas all my life and it still hits home with me everytime I watch the show. I grew up near a Texas ranch in a small South Texas town.

      • Tate Terrel permalink
        April 21, 2016 7:00 PM

        Oh darn it! I never seen that agin afore in my life! I love Festus! Im watching retuns right now. Gunsmoke has always beem my fav show.,,

  24. Zabo permalink
    April 30, 2016 1:11 PM

    Great find I might say. Thanks for the gunsmoke info. Currently ME-T.V. Is re-running the black snd White episodes of gunsmoke. I must say I think they are my favorite years of the show. I look forward to watching gunsmoke M-F 1:00 p.m. EST. I must tell you good folks that Festis is the man only just behind Marshall Matt Dillon. This show is just a classic American tale. The good guys win in the end. Watching it right now and I just wanted to say thanks for all of your hard work. And don’t you fret none. lol!

  25. Anonymous permalink
    March 23, 2017 8:58 PM

    Thad was mentioned in the same episode that Matt said Chester and Quint had gone to California. Thad was killed in taking part in a posse.

  26. A Fan permalink
    January 28, 2018 11:30 PM

    Gunsmoke was always my favorite show back in the 50″s and early 60’s in my teens. Missed most of the episodes because I went into the Service in 1962 and was stationed in Italy, Japan, Philippines and Taiwan until 1980′. I’m 73 now and record all the shows on TV Land. .
    I watch shows almost every day. Still seeing many episodes for my 1st time. I think I kinda adopted Matt as the father I never really knew. Always hoped I would be like Matt but in reality I suppose I was more like Festus. Am not addicted but do enjoy the shows.

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