Jim Nabors, who is fondly remembered as wholesome Gomer Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show” and spin-off “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” died today in Hawaii at the age of 87. The entertainer, who underwent a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B, died peacefully at his home after his health had declined for the past year, his husband, Stan Cadwallader, told the Associated Press.
“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed,” said Cadwallader, who married Nabors in early 2013 in Washington State.
Born on June 12, 1930 in Sylacauga, Alabama, Nabors was discovered by Andy Griffith while working at the Santa Monica nightclub The Horn, and he later joined “The Andy Griffith Show” in 1962 as Gomer Pyle. Two seasons later he headlined spin-off “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” which was an instant top 10 hit and aired for five seasons. Immediately following the sitcom was his own variety series, “The Jim Nabors Show,” which aired for two seasons and featured his “Gomer Pyle” co-star Frank Sutton.
Nabors guest-starred in the first episode of CBS’ “The Carol Burnett Show” every season (Burnett considered him her “good luck” charm), and he had roles on three films starring his friend, Burt Reynolds: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “Stroker Ace” and “Cannonball Run II.”
On the music side, Nabors released 28 albums and had five gold records and one platinum record. He also lent his voice to the Indianapolis 500, making his rendition of “Back Home Again in Indiana” a staple of the annual race since 1972. He sang the song for the last time at the Indy 500 in 2014.