American actor James Best  died at 9:28 p.m. ET Monday after a brief illness and complications of pneumonia. He was 88. 

The beloved actor and teacher was best known for his role on The Dukes of Hazzard as Roscoe P. Coltrane.  His real name had become James Best, but it wasn’t his birth name. 

He was born Jules Guy in Powderly, Kentucky, on July 26, 1926. His birth parents were Lena Mae Everly Guy (sister of Ike Everly, who was father of ‘The Everly Brothers’) and Larkin Jasper Guy. After spending a short time in an orphanage following his mother’s death in 1929, the young boy was adopted by Essa and Armen Best. He was re-named him James K. Best and raised in Corydon, Indiana. 

Best was briefly a metalworker and then joined the Army during World War II in July 1944.  The majority of his service was as an MP in Wiesbaden, Germany just after the end of the war. While still in Germany, Best was transferred to Special Services and began his acting career. 

Best said he first acted in a European tour of “My Sister Eileen” directed by Arthur Penn. Upon his return to the U.S., he toured in road and stock companies in plays and musicals, and was eventually spotted by a scout from Universal Pictures, who put him under contract.  During the 1950s and ’60s, he was a familiar face in movies and television in a wide range of roles, from Western bad guys to gutless cowards and country bumpkins. He performed in hundreds of episodes for TV, including iconic roles in hits such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Alfred Hitchcock” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” 

According to IMDB, physical ailments curtailed his work for a long period late in his career, and he established an acting workshop in Los Angeles. He also served as artist-in-residence at the University of Mississippi, teaching and directing. He worked in both acting and producing capacities for Burt Reynolds films in the late 1970s, before taking on his greatest commercial success. His role as Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane on the 1979 TV series,  The Dukes of Hazzard was the part that gave him his greatest fame.
He continued teaching, both in Hollywood and later in Florida (at the University of Central Florida). James Best starred in the 2007 feature film, Moondance Alexander (2007), along with Don Johnson and Sasha Cohen. 
James was well known for his persistence. One example of this was his dream pet project of producing a sequel to The Killer Shrews, the 1959 cult horror classic in which Best starred. His dream came true with the 2012 release of the nightmarish Return of the Killer Shews, with Best not only reprising his original role, but also helping to develop and write the film.  

2013’s ‘The Sweeter Side of Life,’  a Hallmark movie that was written and produced by daughter Janeen Damian and her husband, was his final movie. 

And back on stage, James Best won a Best Actor award for a 2014 production of On Golden Pond.  

He wrote in his 2009 autobiography, Best in Hollywood: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful, “The only thing that makes me sad about having so little time left is leaving the people I love and those who love me.” 
Best always maintained that what made his life complete was his family. In 1986, he married actress Dorothy Collier, his beloved wife for the next 29 years, until his passing. He is also survived by son Gary Allen Best and wife Angela, daughter JoJami Best Tyler and husband Eric, and daughter Janeen Damian and husband Michael Damian; and by grandchildren Lauren Best, Cameron Tyler and Tessa Tyler.

Reportedly Best will have a private funeral.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to a local humane society of choice, according to

Sources: IMDB,
Statement from Tom Wopat, costar as Luke Duke on “The Dukes of Hazzard”: 

“The work he did with Sorrell Booke (Boss Hogg) probably defined our show as much as the car chases. He was a fine actor, director and mentor, and an even better friend. He will be greatly missed.”

Statement from John Schneider, costar as Bo Duke on “The Dukes of Hazzard”:

“Jimmie Best—of course, I laughed. But I learned more about acting in front of a camera from Jimmie Best in an afternoon than from anyone else in a year. When asked to cry on camera, he would say, ‘Sure thing…which eye?’ I’m forever thankful to have cut my teeth in the company of such a fine man.”

Statement from Sonny Shroyer costar as Enos Strate on “The Dukes of Hazzard”:

“James Best will go down as one of the greatest actors that ever lived—a great
friend and the only sheriff I ever really loved. I will always miss him calling
me “dipstick.” I know he loved me and I loved him.”

Statement from Rick Hurst, costar as Cletus Hogg on “The Dukes of Hazzard”:

“Jimmie’s love of creativity and the arts was surpassed only by his love of family—and maybe fishing. He was fiercely loyal to those around him, sometimes using a firebrand element of his nature for the common good. I will always love Jimmie for his kindness to me, remembering him for his sparkling, piercing wit, and envying him for his full head of hair. Here’s to a life well and fully lived.”

Statement from Ben Jones, costar as Cooter Davenport on “The Dukes of Hazzard”: 

“Jimmie Best was the most constantly creative person I have ever known. Every minute of his long life was spent acting, writing, producing, painting, teaching, fishing, or involved in another of his life’s many passions. As an actor, he could play it tough or gentle or hilariously and outrageously funny. He wrote plays and screenplays and poems. His oils and watercolors were wistful and they perfectly captured the rural life in which he had grown up and which he loved. As a teacher, he influenced a generation of actors. He was a world-class fisherman, an extraordinary raconteur, and a devoted friend, husband and father. That creative energy and zest for life were there until the end. He will be greatly missed, but his work will last for generations to come. He was one of a kind, and it was one of the blessings of my life to have worked with him for all these years. Alma and I are thinking of Dorothy and the family right now. Rest in peace, old friend.”—Ben Jones and wife Alma Viator 

Statement from Corey Eubanks, stuntman on “The Dukes of Hazzard”:

“The greatest pleasures in life are to love and to laugh. And I have met no man who has given more love or made more people laugh than James Best. To say the world is a better place because of him would be a ridiculous understatement. And to call him my friend is truly an honor.”

Statements courtesy of