Hank Patterson

Elmer Calvin "Hank" Patterson (October 9, 1888 – August 23, 1975) was an American actor and musician. He is known foremost for playing two recurring characters on three television series: the stableman Hank Miller on Gunsmoke and farmer Fred Ziffel on both Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.

Hank Patterson
Abilene Town 1946 (5).jpg
Patterson (left) with Lloyd Bridges & Randolph Scott in a scene from Abilene Town
Elmer Calvin Patterson

(1888-10-09)October 9, 1888
DiedAugust 23, 1975(1975-08-23) (aged 86)
Woodland Hills, California, US
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
OccupationActor, musician
Years active1939–1975

Early lifeEdit

Patterson was born in Springville, Alabama, one of seven children[1] of Green Davis Patterson, an insurance agent,[2] and Mary Isabell "Mollie" Newton Patterson.[3] By the 1890s his family had moved to Taylor, Texas, where he spent most of his boyhood and attended school through 8th grade.[4][5] In 1917 he registered for a World War I draft card in Lubbock County, Texas.[6]

Patterson had intended to be a serious pianist, but he instead became a vaudeville piano player. By the end of the 1920s he moved to California. He entered the movie business as an actor during the 1930s. His earliest identified screen work was an uncredited appearance in the Roy Rogers' Western film The Arizona Kid (1939).[7]

Movies and TVEdit

Patterson found plenty of movie work, mainly playing cantankerous types as well as blacksmiths, hotel clerks, farmers, shopkeepers and other townsmen, usually bit roles and character parts[4] in Republic Pictures westerns, and then in popular TV westerns such as The Cisco Kid, The Adventures of Kit Carson, The Lone Ranger, and Annie Oakley. He also had small cameo appearances in a number of sci-fi movies by Bert I. Gordon: Beginning of the End, The Amazing Colossal Man, Attack of the Puppet People, and Earth vs. The Spider.

Patterson played recurring or different roles in adult/family TV westerns, including the role of Hank Miller in 33 episodes of Gunsmoke from 1962 through 1973,[8][9] on Have Gun-Will Travel (eleven episodes),[10][11] Death Valley Days (nine episodes), Tales of Wells Fargo (seven episodes),[12]Maverick (four episodes),[4] Cheyenne (four episodes), Wagon Train (three episodes), Daniel Boone (three episodes), The Virginian (two episodes), The Rifleman, Bonanza, and in episodes of Lawman, Bat Masterson (sometimes in a recurring role as former Confederate Soldier Soda Smith), The Restless Gun, and many others.[13] In 1959 Patterson appeared as a sodbuster in an uncredited role on Lawman ("The Young Toughs").

He made additional TV appearances, including in three episodes of The Twilight Zone[14][15] as well as Perry Mason,[citation needed] Burke's Law, The Untouchables, Judd for the Defense, My Three Sons, and in later years The Mod Squad and Love, American Style and Highway Patrol.

Green AcresEdit

In 1963 Patterson first appeared in what would become a recurring role as farmer Fred Ziffel on the popular CBS rural comedy Petticoat Junction. In 1965 CBS debuted another rural comedy, Green Acres. Both series were set in the mythical farming community of Hooterville, with characters from Petticoat Junction often also appearing in Green Acres, including Patterson's Fred Ziffel character. It was on the popular, irreverent Green Acres that Patterson earned his greatest fame. In 1965 and 1966—two of the years in which the two series ran concurrently—Patterson frequently appeared in both shows in the same week in prime time.[10]

The association of Patterson's character with the popular character Arnold, the pet pig whom Fred and his wife Doris treated as a son, ensured Patterson a place in TV history. Arnold attended school, watched TV and was a talented artist, piano player, and actor. He even "talked" (snorted, grunted and squealed) in a language that everyone in Hooterville seemed to understand except Oliver Wendell Douglas (Green Acres co-star Eddie Albert).[16][17]

According to westernclippings.com "Characters and Heavies" by Boyd Magers, "Ironically, by the time Patterson was doing 'Green Acres' he was in his late 70s and almost completely deaf, but the producers loved his portrayal so much they worked around his hearing impairment by having the dialogue coach lying on the floor out-of-shot tapping Hank's leg with a yardstick as a cue to speak his line."[13]

Personal lifeEdit

Hank Patterson was married to Daisy Marguerite (Sheeler)[18] Patterson, a Kentucky native[19] four years younger than Hank whose parents were both of German ancestry.[20] They are listed together in the U.S. Census for both 1930 and 1940[21] as residing in Los Angeles. In the 1940 census, Hank's occupation is listed as "Actor, Motion Picture Studio & Stage."[5]

Patterson's great-grandfather, James Pearson, was an original settler of St. Clair County, Alabama, as was his mother's great-grandfather, Thomas Newton. His great-grandfather, Henry S. Patterson, moved to Blount County, Alabama, around 1857 from Murray County, Georgia. Between 1894 and 1897, the family left Alabama to live in Texas.

Hank Patterson died at age 86 on August 23, 1975[22] of bronchial pneumonia. He is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood.[23] Daisy died, also at age 86, on February 2, 1979.[18]

Patterson's great-niece is actress Téa Leoni.[24]

Selected filmographyEdit

Selected TelevisionEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1953 Death Valley Days Sandy Edwards Season 1, Episode 12, "Swamper Ike"
1955 Death Valley Days Season 2, Episode 14, "Husband Pro-Tem"
1965-1971 Green Acres Fred Ziffel 84 episodes


  1. ^ Green D. Patterson family, United States Census of 1910, Taylor, Texas. FamilySearch. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  2. ^ Green D. Patterson family, United States Census of 1900, Taylor, Texas. FamilySearch. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  3. ^ "Elmor C Paterson", United States Census of 1900. Taylor, Texas. FamilySearch. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Hank Patterson - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  5. ^ a b "View Free Records with a Free Account". interactive.ancestry.com.
  6. ^ "Elmer Calvin Patterson" United States Draft Registration cards, Lubbock County, Texas, 1917-1918. FamilySearch. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  7. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Hank Patterson" biographical profile. AllMovie. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  8. ^ Character reference to Hank Patterson, ". . . and the Other Hard Living Citizen's (sic) of Dodge", gunsmoke.net. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  9. ^ Siler, Bob (2011). "Homes of the Western Stars – The GUNSMOKE Tour". Charles Starrett – One Fan's Journey (stevesomething.wordpress.com.), November 17, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Hank Patterson - TV Guide". TVGuide.com.
  11. ^ "Have Gun - Will Travel: The Final Season, Volume Two". DVD Talk.
  12. ^ "Classic TV & Movie Hits - Tales of Wells Fargo". Classictvhits.com.
  13. ^ a b Magers, Donna. "Hank Patterson". Westernclippings.com.
  14. ^ Bruce Eder (2016). "Movies". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 6, 2014.
  15. ^ "Favorite Hank Patterson Episode?". Twilight Zone Cafe.
  16. ^ Times, Los Angeles. "Green Acres". Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ "Frequently Asked Green Acres Questions". Maggiore.net.
  18. ^ a b "FamilySearch: Sign In". Familysearch.org. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  19. ^ "FamilySearch". Familysearch.org.
  20. ^ "FamilySearch: Sign In". Familysearch.org. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  21. ^ "FamilySearch: Sign In". Familysearch.org. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  22. ^ "FamilySearch: Sign In". Familysearch.org. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  23. ^ Marik, A. J. (2002). "Hank Patterson", Find a Grave memorial (6079802) with biographical profile and related photographs created January 9, 2002. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  24. ^ Leoni Online: The Articles - Elle Magazine

External linksEdit