Jim Nabors, whose homespun comedy made him a TV star as Gomer Pyle and whose operatic baritone voice made him a favorite in Las Vegas and other showplaces, died Thursday at age 87.
Nabors died peacefully at his home in Honolulu after his health had declined for the past year, his husband, Stan Cadwallader, told The Associated Press. In 1994, Nabors underwent a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B.
"Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that's all we can say about him. He's going to be dearly missed," Cadwallader told the AP.
Nabors recorded more than two dozen albums and sang with the Dallas and St. Louis symphony orchestras. He was also philanthropic, bringing celebrities to Dallas for his Friends & Nabors Gala benefiting organ transplantation.
In 1993, Nabors also performed with the Dallas Symphony. An Evening With Jim Nabors was part of the symphony's 1993-94 Superpops series.
In a review in The Dallas Morning News, Tom Maurstad wrote:
"The hook of his persona then was the absurd contrast between his nasal-twanging speaking voice and his deep, resonant singing voice. So you just knew when Mr. Nabors came strolling on stage, belting out the '70s chart-breaking lip-trembler Sometimes When We Touch with the same booming baritone that always amazed the good folks of Mayberry, that when he finished, Mr. Nabors would break into a sheepish grin and exclaim, 'Well, gollee.' And sure enough."
Nabors and Cadwallader married in early 2013 in Washington state.
"It's pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you've been together 38 years, I think something's got to happen there, you've got to solidify something," Nabors told Hawaii News Now at the time. "And at my age, it's probably the best thing to do."
Nabors enjoyed nearly instant success when he joined the cast of The Andy Griffith Show in the early 1960s. His character, Gomer Pyle, was a naive but lovable gas pumper who would exclaim "Gollllll-ly!" The character proved so popular that in 1964 CBS cast him in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
In the spinoff, which lasted five seasons, Gomer left Mayberry to join the Marines. His innocence confounded his Sgt. Carter, his crew-cut-wearing commander played by Frank Sutton.
In the early 1980s, his friendship with Burt Reynolds led to comedic roles in Stroker Ace, Cannonball II and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
In the 1970s, Nabors starred with North Texas resident Ruth Buzzi as time-traveling androids on the ABC series The Lost Saucer, produced by Sid and Marty Krofft.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Carol Burnett said she had been close friends with Nabors for more than 50 years.
"He was the godfather of my daughter, Jody," the statement read. "Every year he was always the first guest on my variety show. I considered him my 'good luck charm.' My heart is heavy. I'm grateful he was a large part of my life. I miss him. I love him."