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Fess Parker, TV Frontiersman, Dies

A nation doffs its coonskin caps to Fess Parker, who starred on the TV series "Davy Crockett" and "Daniel Boone" in the 1950s and 1960s and who died today at his home in the Santa Ynez Valley, Calif., according to his managers. He was 85.

Mr. Parker, a native Texas, left show business for a career in business and real estate in the 1970s. He opened mobile home parks and a luxury hotel in California and started Fess Parker Winery.

Here's a quick look down memory lane for those who grew up with Mr. Parker as a frontiersman. We welcome your memories of his acting and business roles.

By Adam Bernstein  |  March 18, 2010; 3:12 PM ET
Categories:  Actors, actresses  
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The television adventures of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone were not to be missed by a young boy in the 1950s. God speed, Mr. Parker!

Posted by: davebeedon | March 18, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Davy Crockett was a hero for all the boys then God rest his soul we love you Fess

Posted by: John20602 | March 18, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes those pesky Redskins! Battling wrongs and bringin' justice for the 'Redskins' Apparently Davey was also a Congressman who fixed the crack in the Liberty Bell. And when his politickin' was done he went out West wit' his gun. Hmmmm. Good ole Fess. Thanks for bringing Central Coast Pinot and Coonskin caps to the masses!

Posted by: wendyimhome | March 18, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Old Yeller is humping his leg in Heaven

Posted by: OhTheHumanity | March 18, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

What a loss. Saturday afternoons at the Ballina picture theatre (New South Wales, Austalia) were a sheer joy when they ran Fess Parker fims.

Posted by: gibo | March 18, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

"Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods, so he knew every tree
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three
Davy, Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier."

Television was so much better when we were kids. So long, Fess.

Posted by: Byrd3 | March 18, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Parker was a longtime Disney stalwart who was typecast in many "frontiersman" roles; yet he said he had no regrets about that and was proud of his film career. He also appeared in Disney's "The Great Locomotive Chase" as the hero Andrews, who stole a Confederate train in northern Georgia in 1862.

Posted by: pookey12 | March 18, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Being of the coonskin cap generation, I had the pleasure of a long conversation with Mr. Parker at a Disneyland anniversary function. It was hard to believe I was talking to 'Davy Crockett'.
Sometimes we're disappointed when we finally meet our heroes. Not with Fess Parker. Tears on my Davy Crockett t-shirt, wherever it may be. Via con Dios

Posted by: linky902 | March 18, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

I attended college at UC Santa Barbara and was a reporter for the student newspaper in 1971, about the time Fess Parker began his business career. One of his first ventures was a trailer park located adjacent to the campus -- and very near a sensitive wetland. Locating a trailer park next to a beautiful waterway offended many students, and so two reporters for the paper determined they would expose his foul deed. They went off to interview Parker, but soon came back shaking their heads. He had greeted them warmly and given them -- students -- a complete tour of the trailer park, which they had to agree was the nicest trailer park they had ever seen. They said he even showed them a trailer that belonged to his mother, who had retired to the development. In the end, they were simply unable to write a negative story. They told me he was the strongest father figure they'd ever met. I met him myself a number of years later, and he was indeed a charming man.

Posted by: dktrrobt | March 18, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Daniel Boone was man ...a big,big man!What a Boone,what a babber,what a frontier taber was hee!!!!!!!! Yee haa !!

Posted by: hyroller56 | March 18, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

What can one say. Fess was a hero to the masses including two little boys that wore coonskin caps and brother and I of course.

Posted by: Etek | March 18, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

In the late 1960's, Fess Parker visited the troops in Viet Nam. He ignored his handlers and insisted on visiting outlying fire bases. Riskier, perhaps, but the people he went to see never had entertainers come by. A lot of people will never forget him for that.

Posted by: harlowj2 | March 18, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Rest in piece Fess. You lived to be the same age as one of the characters you portrayed...Daniel Boone.

Posted by: dabmeister | March 18, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Please support HB 1784.This bill will make May 19 Parker Day.Its to support great americans by the name of Parker.People like Bonnie Parker,Fess Parker,Dorthy Parker and the black guy who played the sax too.These great americans died so that you can live free !!! They shall not be forgotten !!! So,contact your local congressman today !!

Posted by: hyroller56 | March 18, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Of all his roles, the most meaningful to me - and which still brings tears to my eyes - is the small part Parker had in "Old Yeller," as the father to Tommy Kirk. That small scene at the end when he counsels his son over the grief he feels over the loss of his dog is one of those classic, under-appreciated scenes of acting that ought to be front and center for any father raising a son these days. We lost our family dog last year, and I leaned on that scene to counsel my own son.

Rest in peace, Fess, they don't make them like you anymore.

Posted by: failsafe | March 18, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Hyroller56: The great americans you mention include Bonnie Parker. Is this the same Ms. Parker of Bonnie and Clyde fame? Did she really die so we could live free or because she robbed banks and killed people?

Sorry, but she should not be mentioned with the likes of Fess Parker or "the black guy who played the sax," who would be Charlie Parker.

Posted by: curmudgeon4u | March 18, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

his show sent me into the local woods and marshes trapping beaver and muskrats and hunting deer and duck's. in fourth grade i was up at 5:30 in the morning heading out to check my traps before school. all of us who did those things were floating in money. big money for a gradeschool kid. daniel boone was a man......

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | March 18, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

when parker quit acting there were 5000 polar bears. now there are 25000.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | March 18, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

hyroller, I don't know where you got your lyrics, but here are the real ones:

Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.

With an eye like and eagle and as tall as a mountain was he.

Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.

He was brave, he was fearless and as tough as a mighty oak tree.

From the coonskin cap on the top of ol’ Dan to the heel of his rawhide shoe

The rippin’est roarin’est fighten’est man the frontier ever knew.

Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.

And he fought for America to make all Americans free.

What a Boone. What a wonder. What a dream comer truer was he.

Posted by: ny26lars | March 18, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

I remember as a small tyke in the late 50s and early 60s of kids wearing coonskin caps fashioned after the Davy Crocket show.

Posted by: BeaverCleavage | March 18, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

They don't make such great and humble actors like Fess. We're going to miss you big guy.

Posted by: 45upnorth | March 18, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Parker, for your portrayal of what a man should do for his country. As a boy, you were my inspiration to success. I salute you, Sir. May you rest in peace, and God Bless.

Posted by: richardcolonel | March 18, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Happened to be driving near Fess Parker Winery today listening to the radio when I heard the sad news. I, too, loved his Davy Crockett character and never forgot the words to the song. As a teacher, I tried to convey to my little students the importance of a coonskin cap, but they didn't get it...anyway, I stopped at the winery and picked up a Syrah...Santa Barbara County...and I'm drinking to you, Fess!

Posted by: SYValley1 | March 19, 2010 12:25 AM | Report abuse

An old giant of an actor representing decency. Sadly, Fess may not be emulated.

Posted by: MRGB | March 19, 2010 1:06 AM | Report abuse

How nice to read these comments. News of his death, and hearing that great song, brought an immediate tear to my eye, remembering my family sitting around 50 years ago watching Davey Crockett.

Great to hear Fess Parker was a good man. RIP, our old television friend.

Posted by: KCOracle | March 19, 2010 1:51 AM | Report abuse

Fess Parker was a great actor and a gentlemen. We really enjoyed all his roles.
This past year, one of the classic televison channels has been showing
re-runs of his Daniel Boone TV series.
We send our heartfelt condolences to his friends and family.

Posted by: chicago77 | March 19, 2010 3:31 AM | Report abuse

When John Wayne's movie The Alamo came out, it was partly ruined for me because Parker wasn't playing Crockett. Even the monumental Wayne couldn't overcome the relationship Parker had created.

Posted by: THECat1 | March 19, 2010 6:39 AM | Report abuse

Davy Crockett, Sky King, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Mickey Mouse Club, the Lone Ranger! Those were the days.

Posted by: prwolfe | March 19, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

I only wish that my g-grandkids had the same type of TV characters such as Fess Parker in programs that teach decency, respect and personal character.

My children benefited from the days when TV was nicer and with characters such as Mr. Parker.

I have to admit that the coonskin caps were a bit much, but my son adored his and wore it until it seemed to start shedding.

Posted by: limpscomb | March 19, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Fess. We'll miss ya mate.

Posted by: aussiebones | March 19, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

bustede many a hatchet throwing them at trees. got good at it though. learned how to make that call with my hands too. great show.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | March 19, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

It was not only boys who modelled their playtime fantasies after Davy Crockett: I remember long summer Saturday evenings tramping through the underbrush in Chicago's Grant Park with my younger brother, with our coonskin caps on, trying to walk silently and hunt wild critters like our hero. Fess Parker, in Crockett, Boone and the wonderful father in "Old Yeller" created indelible images of stoic, gentle, righteous, moderate and brave men that influenced my entire generation.

Too bad that nowadays we have the bluster of bigoted Fox-style blowhards who substitute racist violence and anti-woman,anti-gay, anti-immigrant hatred for real manhood.

Posted by: dee5 | March 19, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I never got to actually see the Davy Crockett TV show back in the 1950s when it first came out, because where I lived there was not an ABC station close enough to pick it up from. But I definitely remember the song, and I remember having a coonskin cap at the tender young age of about 5 or 6. Finally, in 1982, when I got a VCR, a friend of mine let me borrow his videotapes of it and I got to watch it! I enjoyed it even then! RIP, Fess. You made a great contribution to our culture.

Posted by: Brerrabbit1 | March 19, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

In response to prWolfe - I thought I was the only one who watched those shows - what memories. I loved the older shows and have tried to explain them to my four sons, but they think that I was just a Tomboy and that's why I loved them. It was all about the morals and ethics of the shows and that's what I tried to explain to them. They are all grown now and enjoy racier stuff, but while it was on, it was good. Thanks for the memory and God Bless Fess for doing such great work while you did it. Rest in Peace.

Posted by: NinaP56 | March 19, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I wish that when I'm gone , that I would get a small fraction of the comments Fess Parker has here. He portrayed a real man--strong but kind. That scene in OLD YELLER was a great example.

Posted by: sfarm | March 19, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

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