A great actor has passed leaving a legacy spanning several decades, awards, TV shows and an iconic character that has become as much a part of Americana as Mom’s apples pie and white bread.
Born in Texas, the son of a gas gas station owner, John Hillerman made his name in theater before making his way to television and the big screen. The Air Force veteran died at his home at age 84, according to media reports.
According to media reports, Hillerman received his first onscreen credit in 1971 at the relatively advanced age of 39 off a part in the 1971 Western Lawman. Also that year, he had a small role as a teacher in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show.
Later, he appeared for the director in What’s Up, Doc? (1972), Paper Moon (1973) and At Long Last Love (1975).
Hillerman had roles in many top films, including such hits as Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974), where he played a chap named Howard Johnson, and Roman Polanski’s noir classic Chinatown(1974), as Russ Yelburton, deputy chief of the water department.
Hillerman also performed in High Plains Drifter (1973), Lucky Lady (1975), Audrey Rose (1977) and another Brooks’ film, History of the World: Part I (1981) and A Very Brady Sequel (1996).
John Benedict Hillerman was born Dec. 20, 1932, in Denison, Texas. He attended the University of Texas at Austin for three years before serving four years in the Air Force. During his tour of duty, he worked with theatrical groups. Upon his discharge, he moved to New York City to study at the American Theatre Wing.