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James Child Drury Jr. (born April 18, 1934), is an American actor best known for his success in playing the title role in the 90-minute weekly Western television series The Virginian, broadcast on NBC from 1962–71.

James Drury
James Drury The Virginian 1971.JPG
James Drury in a publicity photo for The Virginian (1971)
James Child Drury Jr.

(1934-04-18) April 18, 1934 (age 85)
Alma materNew York University
OccupationActor; voice talent, oil and natural gas businessman
Years active1955–2005
  • Cristall Orton (m. 1957–1964)
  • Phyllis Mitchell (m. 1968–1979)
  • Carl Ann Head Drury (m. 1979–2019)
Children2 (including Timothy Drury)
Parent(s)James Child Drury Sr.
Beatrice Crawford Drury

Early yearsEdit

Drury was born in New York City, the son of James Child Drury and Beatrice Crawford Drury.[1] His father was a New York University professor of marketing.[2][1] He grew up between New York City and Salem, Oregon, where his mother owned a farm.[3] Drury contracted polio at the age of ten.[2]

He studied drama at New York University[1] and took additional classes at UCLA to complete his degree after he began acting in films at MGM.[4]


Drury's professional acting career began when he was twelve years old, when he performed in a road company's production of Life with Father.[1]

He signed a film contract with MGM in 1954 and appeared in bit parts in films. After he went to 20th Century Fox, he appeared in Love Me Tender (1956) and Bernardine (1957).[5]

In 1959, Drury was cast as Harding, Jr., in the episode "Murder at the Mansion" on Richard Diamond, Private Detective.[6] On May 9, 1959, early in his career, Drury appeared as Neal Adams in the episode "Client Neal Adams" of ABC's western series Black Saddle. In the story line, Adams is an old friend of series protagonist Clay Culhane, a gunfighter-turned-lawyer played by Peter Breck. Adams has robbed a bank of $8,000 and was subsequently shot in the back by a pursuing bounty hunter, played by Charles Aidman. Adams asks Culhane for help and makes the false claim that the bounty hunter is the brother of a man whom Adams had earlier killed in self-defense.[7]

On Christmas eve 1959, Drury was cast in the episode, "Ten Feet of Nothing" on the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. Drury portrayed a young miner, Joe Plato, who in a drunken stupor gives away half of his then worthless mining claim to a saloon singer, Kathy Mulqueen (Preshy Marker). Kathy arrives to collect on her interest in the mine when gold is discovered on the adjacent property. Soon Joe and Cathy fall in love and marry. Hank Patterson was cast as Plato's friend, Abe.[8]

In 1960, Drury appeared in different roles in two episodes, "Fair Game" and "Vindication" of another ABC western series, The Rebel, starring Nick Adams as a Confederate adventurer roaming through the post-Civil War American West. On November 16, 1960, Drury played young pioneer Justin Claiborne in the episode "The Bleymier Story" of NBC's Wagon Train.[9]

In 1960, Drury portrayed Joe Darle in the episode "Wall of Silence" of the ABC/Warner Brothers detective series, Bourbon Street Beat. He made a memorable guest appearance on the CBS drama series Perry Mason in 1961, as he played the role of musician and defendant Eddy King in "The Case of the Missing Melody".

Drury as the Virginian

He appeared in secondary roles for Walt Disney. In 1962, he was cast in a substantial role as a lascivious gold prospector in the early Sam Peckinpah western Ride the High Country (1962) opposite Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea. Around the same time, Drury landed the top-billed leading role of the ranch foreman on The Virginian, a lavish series which ran for nine seasons until 1971.[citation needed]

Drury and his Wilshire Boulevard Buffalo Hunters band performed 54 USO-sponsored shows for troops in Vietnam in three weeks in April 1966.[5]

In a sequel to The Virginian, Drury continued his title role in The Men from Shiloh on NBC (1970-1971).[10]:981 He had the lead role of Captain Spike Ryerson in the drama series Firehouse on ABC television in 1974.[10]

In 1993, Drury had a guest-starring role as Captain Tom Price on the first three episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger, opposite Chuck Norris and Clarence Gilyard. Drury also had a cameo role in the 2000 TV movie of The Virginian starring Bill Pullman. The film followed Wister's novel more closely than had the television series. Drury appeared in a number of films and other television programs, including The Young Warriors and the TV cowboy reunion movie The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw with Doug McClure, who played the character Trampas during The Virginian.

In 1991, Drury was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.[11] In 1997 and 2003, he was a guest at the Western Film Fair in Charlotte, North Carolina.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

On February 7, 1957, Drury married Cristall Othones. They had two children and divorced on November 23, 1964. He married Phyllis Jacqueline Mitchell on April 27, 1968, and they divorced on January 30, 1979. He married Carl Ann Head on July 30, 1979.[1]


Drury was in the oil and natural gas business in Houston at the turn of the 21st century. His son, Timothy Drury, is a keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist who has played with the rock groups The Eagles and Whitesnake.[12]



Year Title Role Notes
1955 Blackboard Jungle Hospital Attendant Uncredited
1955 Love Me or Leave Me Assistant Director Uncredited
1955 The Tender Trap Eddie
1956 Diane Lieutenant Uncredited
1956 Forbidden Planet Crewman Strong
1956 The Last Wagon Lt. Kelly
1956 Love Me Tender Ray Reno
1957 Bernardine Lt. Langley Beaumont
1959 Good Day for a Hanging Paul Ridgely
1960 Toby Tyler Jim Weaver
1960 Pollyanna George Dodds
1960 Ten Who Dared Walter Powell
1962 Ride the High Country Billy Hammond
1962 Third of a Man Emmet
1967 The Young Warriors aka Eagle Warriors Sgt. Cooley
1991 The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw Jim
1994 Maverick Riverboat Poker Player Uncredited
2005 Hell to Pay JT Coffee


Year Title Role Notes
1955–1961 Gunsmoke Tom / Johnny Red / Jerry Cass / Booth Rider 4 episodes
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Michael Grimes Episode: "The Right Kind of House"
1958 Playhouse 90 Jesse James Episode: "Bitter Heritage"
1958 The Texan Johnny Kaler Episode: "The Troubled Town"[13]
1958–1961 The Rifleman Spicer / Lloyd Carpenter 2 episodes
1959–1961 Rawhide Rance / Johnny Adler / Kenley 3 episodes
1959 The Lawman Clay Troop 1 episode
1959 Lawman Stan Bates Episide "The Outsider"
1959 Steve Canyon Lt. Richard Muller 2 episodes
1959 Cheyenne Bill Magruder Episode: "The Impostor"
1959 Black Saddle Neal Adams Episode: "Client: Neal Adams"
1960–1962 Wagon Train Cole Crawford / Justin Claiborne 2 episodes
1962–1971 The Virginian The Virginian 249 episodes
1969 Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In Himself 2 episodes
1971–1972 Alias Smith and Jones Sheriff Tankersley / Sheriff Lom Trevors 2 episodes
1971 Ironside Al Episode: "The Professionals"
1974 Firehouse Captain Spike Ryerson 13 episodes
1993 Walker, Texas Ranger Captain Tom Price 3 episodes
1993–1994 The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Ethan Emerson 2 episodes


  • River Invaders: The Scourge of Zebra Mussels - (1994) - PBS special
  • Sturgeon: Ancient Survivors of the Deep - host/narrator - (1995) - PBS special
  • A Vanishing Melody: The Call of the Piping Plover - (1997) - PBS special


  1. ^ a b c d e Aaker, Everett (2017). Television Western Players, 1960-1975: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland. pp. 135–137. ISBN 9781476662503. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b "James Drury". Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  3. ^ Wheat, Dan (April 17, 2014). "'The Virginian' turns 80, recalls Oregon roots". Capital Press. Archived from the original on September 17, 2019.
  4. ^ Fischer, Marian Lowry (August 26, 1954). "Salem Youth Under Contract with MGM". Daily Capital Journal. Oregon, Salem. p. 13. Retrieved January 18, 2018 – via  
  5. ^ a b Green, Paul (2009). A History of Television’s The Virginian, 1962–1971. McFarland. pp. 94–103. ISBN 9780786457991. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  6. ^ ""Murder at the Mansion", Richard Diamond, Private Detective, March 29, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 30, 2013.
  7. ^ "Black Saddle: "Client Neal Adams", May 9, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  8. ^ "Ten Feet of Nothing on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. December 24, 1959. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  9. ^ "The Bleymier Story". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  10. ^ a b Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 343. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  11. ^ "Great Western Performers". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  12. ^ "News Radio 610 WTVN". Radio 610 WTVN. Archived from the original on June 24, 2013. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  13. ^ "The Texan". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved February 1, 2013.

External linksEdit