March 19th, 2010

Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone Actor Fess Parker Passes at 85

Fess Parker Davy CrockettYesterday beloved actor Fess Parker, who earned fame in the roles of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, passed away at age 85. Parker died peacefully at his Santa Barbara County, California home on the birthday of his wife of 50 years, Marcella.

For many baby-boomers (including this Editor), Fess Parker (as Davy Crockett) was a childhood hero — our first rifle-toting role model. The first installment of “Davy Crockett,” with Buddy Ebsen as Crockett’s sidekick, debuted in December 1954 as part of the “Disneyland” TV show. A native Texan, Parker was a towering 6’6″ tall, well-suited to playing legendary frontiersmen Crockett and Boone. Fess Elisha Parker Jr. was born August 16, 1924, in Fort Worth, and Parker loved to point out that Davy Crockett’s birthday was August 17.

Fess Parker was far from the Hollywood stereotype. He was a quiet, modest, honorable man — a good husband and father (Parker had two children and 11 grandchildren). But more than that, Parker was a generous soul who gave back to his community. This Editor was born and raised in Santa Barbara, where Fess Parker was an important community leader for the past four decades. After his 22-year Hollywood career, Parker built a popular oceanfront hotel in Santa Barbara and started a successful winery in the nearby Santa Ynez Valley. He gave generously to local charities and lead efforts to create new city parks.

I have stayed in Parker’s hotel, visited his winery, and as a young man practicing law, I even met Fess and worked on one of his business projects. I can say Mr. Parker was a true gentleman — as honest and forthright as the characters he popularized on television and in the movies. Though he was not a vocal gun rights advocate like fellow actor Charlton Heston, Parker, as a true Texan, enjoyed hunting and shooting. Parker certainly helped spur interest in historic rifles and shooting through his acting roles. Many may not know that Parker’s first movie appearance was alongside Gary Cooper in Springfield Rifle in 1952. So Fess Parker will always be an iconic American Rifleman, a hero to all those who believe in the frontier spirit. Rest in peace Mr. Parker — you gave us all many great memories.

Fess Parker Davy Crockett

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