James Best, 'The Dukes of Hazzard' Sheriff, Dead at 88

The actor passed away Monday after complications from pneumonia

Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty

James Best, the actor best known for his role as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the CBS comedy The Dukes of Hazzard, has died. He was 88.

The actor passed away Monday evening in Hickory, North Carolina, after a brief illness and complications from pneumonia, according to an obituary posted to the actor’s personal website.

The Kentucky-born actor appeared in many film and television roles throughout his lengthy career. His credits include The Caine Mutiny (1954), alongside actor Humphrey Bogart, and 1958’s The Left Handed Gun with Paul Newman. He also appeared on popular TV programs including The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza and Gunsmoke.

Best’s recurring role as the silly officer of Hazzard County in The Dukes of Hazzard brought him to national fame during its run from 1979 to 1985.

“He was a fine actor, director and mentor, and an even better friend,” costar Tom Wopat, who played Luke Duke, wrote in a statement included in the obituary.

Sonny Shroyer, who played Deputy Sheriff Enos Strate in the series, wrote, “James Best will go down as one of the greatest actors that ever lived.”

Best also formed an acting school where he taught notable Hollywood pupils including Clint Eastwood, Farrah Fawcett, Regis Philbin and Quentin Tarantino. He operated the school in various forms for more than 25 years.

Best never fully retired from acting. In 2014 he starred in the family stage drama On Golden Pond for the Hickory Community Theatre, the Charlotte Observer reported.

In his 2009 autobiography, Best in Hollywood: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful, he addressed his feelings toward aging and death.

“The only thing that makes me sad about having so little time left is leaving the people I love and those who love me,” he wrote. “There are also films and other projects that I want to get done, and there are always fish that need catching.”

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