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William Fawcett (born William Fawcett Thompson; September 8, 1894 – January 25, 1974)[1] was a character actor in Hollywood B-films and in television. His career extended from 1946 until the early 1970s. He is probably best remembered for his role as the cantankerous, rusty-voiced Pete Wilkey of the Broken Wheel Ranch on the NBC series Fury, co-starring Peter Graves, Bobby Diamond, and Roger Mobley. He was one of the few actors to have earned a PhD degree.

William "Bill" Fawcett
William Fawcett Thompson

(1894-09-08)September 8, 1894
High Forest, Minnesota, US
DiedJanuary 25, 1974(1974-01-25) (aged 79)
Resting placeRose Lawn Cemetery in Roseville, Minnesota
OccupationActor (Pete Wilkey on NBC's Fury)
Former university professor
Spouse(s)Helene Krag Fawcett (married 1925–1974, his death; she died in 1997)


Early years, military and educationEdit

William Fawcett Thompson was born in High Forest in Olmsted County near Rochester in southeastern Minnesota.[2] The name "Fawcett" came from the physician who delivered him. His father, William Eaton Lawrence Thompson, was a Methodist pastor who encouraged young Bill to enter the ministry. On September 5, 1916, three days before his twenty-second birthday, Fawcett was licensed to preach by the Hamline Quarterly Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Minnesota.[3] He graduated from Methodist-affiliated Hamline University[4] in the capital city of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

During World War I, Fawcett served as an ambulance driver in the United States Army. Fawcett was decorated by the French government with the Légion d'honneur for his care of the wounded.[4] After his military service, he went into acting, instead of the ministry, first in Canada and then in the United States. He had performed in church dramas and acted so convincingly that his mother would sometimes cry over his characterizations. He performed in repertory theater and stock companies during the 1920s and 1930s.[3]

In 1936, Fawcett procured his PhD in Elizabethan drama from the University of Nebraska[4] at Lincoln. He then became a professor of theater arts at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.[2]

Heading to HollywoodEdit

In 1942, he left Michigan State to audition in Hollywood as an actor himself. He sought a part as a college professor but was turned down on the grounds that he did not fit the part. Fawcett was a thin, wiry man and filled the bill for Pete, the ornery, cantankerous, but fiercely loyal, old coot. Fawcett adopted his stage name when he found that there were several other actors already using the name "William Thompson".[5]

His first film credit came at the age of fifty-two, when in 1946, he portrayed Judge Smith in Stars Over Texas. In 1947, he starred as Nat in Green Dolphin Street and as Andre the beachcomber in The Sea Hound. That same year, he was Uncle Bob in Pioneer Justice. In 1948, Fawcett portrayed Judge Hammond in Check Your Guns and as a news hawker in Superman.[6]

Fawcett's roles continued in 1949 as Professor (He got to portray his previous occupational role) Hammil, a scientist and inventor, in Batman and Robin and as Merlin the Magician in Adventures of Sir Galahad.[7] He played Ezra Fielding that same year in Barbary Pirate and a judge in Ride, Ryder, Ride![6]

Films in the 1950sEdit

In 1950, Fawcett was cast as Zeke in Chain Gang, as Ezra in "Cody of the Pony Express", and as Wharton in Pirates of the High Seas.[6]

In 1951, one of his busiest years, he was Mr. Tuttle in The Mating Season, Mr. Jackson in Mysterious Island, Old Mountain Man in Comin' Round the Mountain, Alkalai in Cattle Queen, and Alpha in Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere. He had a good role as Washoe, a ranch cook in Hills of Utah. He was Ahkmid in "The Magic Carpet".

In 1952, Fawcett played Weatherbee in Kansas Territory, the High Priest in King of the Congo, Caretaker in Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, and was Dr. Rolph in Blackhawk, a serial. He had some excellent scenes as cattle rancher Uncle John in Barbed Wire.[6]

In 1953, Fawcett continued as Dr. Fairchild in Neanderthal Man and as Orin Hadley in Run for the Hills. In 1954, he was Rocky Ford in Riding with Buffalo Bill and as Old Pickup Driver in Gang Busters. In 1955, Fawcett was Cubby Crouch in Seminole uprising. In 1956, he portrayed Jergens in Canyon River, Matthew Barnes in Dakota Incident,[6] and "Pa Stockdale" to Andy Griffith's character in No Time for Sergeants. He was also featured in archival footage on the children's program The Gabby Hayes Show.[7] He also appeared in Disney's TV miniseries Davy Crockett.

In 1958, Fawcett was a farmer in Good Day for a Hanging.[6] From 1957–1959, Fawcett appeared as Sam Miller, the hanged publisher of the Wilcox Clarion newspaper in Willcox (later spelling), Arizona, in the premiere episode of the syndicated western series 26 Men, stories about the Arizona Rangers, starring Tristram Coffin. He also appeared in the series in various roles on four other occasions.

Films of the 1960sEdit

In the 1960s, the roles in film grew fewer. In 1962 he was theater manager Mr. Willis in Warner Brothers "Gypsy," and that same year appeared as Lester Lonnergan in Meredith Willson's The Music Man. He was Mike in The Quick Gun in 1964. He appeared as Steinmetz in King Rat (1965) and as Jensen the Pharmacist in Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966). He was Ollie Jensen in Hostile Guns in 1967. He played Tax Man in Blackbeard's Ghost in 1968. In 1969 and 1970, Fawcett appeared, respectively, in two Disney films, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (starring the teenaged Kurt Russell) and Menace on the Mountain.[6] In 1969, Fawcett played the key supporting role as Old Man Warner in the film version of Shirley Jackson's famous short story "The Lottery."

Guest-starring on televisionEdit

Fury aired on Saturday mornings from 1955–1960. Fawcett played Pete Wilkey, the housekeeper and general ranch hand to Jim Newton (Peter Graves) and Jim's adopted son, Joey Clark Newton (Bobby Diamond).[8]

Fawcett guest-starred on dozens of television series. He appeared as "Grampa" seven times between 1953 and 1956 in the syndicated series The Cisco Kid, starring Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo. Fawcett appeared nine times on The Range Rider, seven times in The Adventures of Kit Carson, and five times on 26 Men. In 1954, he played an unnamed prospector gunned down without provocation by the notorious Joaquin Murietta, bandit of the California Gold Rush, played by Rick Jason, in an episode of Jim Davis' Stories of the Century.

Fawcett's many other roles included Buffalo Bill, Jr. (five episodes, including the part of a banker),[9]The Public Defender, Brave Eagle, The Lone Ranger (five times), Wanted: Dead or Alive (in the episode "Littlest Client"), Annie Oakley, Pony Express (in the episode "The Story of Julesburg"), Riverboat, Sugarfoot, The Tall Man, Laramie, Leave It to Beaver, Straightaway, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, Circus Boy, The Dakotas, Adam-12, Cheyenne, I Dream of Jeannie, The Law and Mr. Jones, Tammy, Frontier Justice, Maverick, Dundee and the Culhane, The Investigators, Gunsmoke (nine times), Daniel Boone (three times), The Rifleman (twice), Mr. Lucky, Wagon Train (five times), Bonanza (seven times), Harrigan and Son, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Virginian (nine times), The Road West, Rawhide 77 Sunset Strip and The Twilight Zone (episode: The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank).

Fawcett also had a lead as Jed McNabb in a dramatic episode of Fireside Theatre titled "To Stand Alone".[1] He portrayed a motel owner in the 1962 Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Bluffing Blast," and a pawn shop owner in the 1964 episode "The Case of the Wednesday Woman." He also guest-starred on Robert Conrad's unconventional western series The Wild Wild West.[10]

Selected filmographyEdit

Death of the FawcettsEdit

On August 18, 1925, Fawcett married the former Helene Krag in Minnetonka, a suburb of Minneapolis in Hennepin County. The union lasted until his death. The couple was childless. Fawcett died of cardiovascular disease at the age of seventy-nine in Sherman Oaks, California. He and Helene, who died on June 17, 1997, are interred in Roselawn Cemetery in Roseville, north of St. Paul.[3]


  1. ^ a b William Fawcett –
  2. ^ a b Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. (2 volume set). McFarland. p. 236. ISBN 9780786479924. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c William Fawcett"
  4. ^ a b c "Veteran Actor Visiting Ripon Speaks of TV, Movie Roles". The Oshkosh Northwestern. Wisconsin, Oshkosh. January 25, 1969. p. 13. Retrieved March 28, 2017 – via  
  5. ^,_William/index.html
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Great Character Actors
  7. ^ a b William Fawcett | Biography, Celebrity Photos and Information | MTV
  8. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. pp. 373–374. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  9. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), p. 114
  10. ^ William Fawcett Biography, Filmography

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