Everett Collection
January 02, 2015 03:20 PM

Donna Douglas, the actress who played tomboyish Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, died Thursday in her native Louisiana, according to reports. She was 81.

Family members confirmed the death to WFAB-9, telling the news station she died at her home in Zachary, Louisiana, with family members by her side.

Douglas earned nationwide fame as Elly May, and told the Associated Press in 2009 that she beat out 500 other actresses for the role in part because the character’s story mirrored her humble beginnings as a poor farm girl with Southern roots. Her audition included her expertly milking a goat, per request.

“I had milked cows before,” she said. “I figured they were equipped the same, so I just went on over and did it.”

Douglas left farm life behind after entering beauty pageants, winning titles including Miss Baton Rogue and Miss New Orleans before moving to New York to pursue a career in entertainment.

She landed the role of Elly May in 1962 and remained on the show until it ended its run in 1971 – and she didn’t mind that it typecast her.

“So many kinds of people relate to Elly May,” the twice-divorced star told the AP after returning to her native Louisiana to spend her golden years engaged in activities including baling hay and picking blueberries. “So many people love her, and that means a lot to me.”

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