Being in my mid 40’s, I was child of both the 70’s and 80’s.  Back in ‘my day’, we had three television channels to choose from.   Starting in ’79, Friday nights at our house we were tuned to CBS and ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’.  For six seasons we watched Bo and Luke jump (and likely destroy, in reality) their 1969 Dodge Charger ‘General Lee’.  There was no girl on television prettier than Daisy and everyone couldn’t help but be entertained by Boss Hogg and his sidekick / sheriff / brother-in-law Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane.   Yesterday, the fictional county of Hazzard, GA and the real world said farewell to the man behind Sheriff Roscoe.  Actor James Best died at a hospice in Hickory, NC.

The Charlotte Observer reports that Best died Monday, April 6, after a brief illness and a battle with pneumonia.  He was 88 years old.  According to his obituary on his website, best was born Jewel Franklin Guy in Powderly, Ky., on July 26, 1926.  After spending a short time in an orphanage following his mother’s death in 1929, he was adopted by Essa and Armen Best and moved with them to their home in Corydon, Indiana.  As a toddler, his name was changed to Jimmy and professionally, the world knew him as James.

One of the things I remember best about his character on The Dukes of Hazzard was his Bassett Hound ‘Flash’.  The addition of ‘Flash’ to the shows cast of characters was totally Bests’ idea.  The show’s producers didn’t like the idea, but Best insisted.  ‘Flash’ was actually rescued from a shelter by Best himself and the actor thought his character needed a sidekick of his own.  All these years later, I think his character benefitted from the addition of that loveable little dog.

Television has changed so much since the days of Sheriff Coltrane and the Dukes.  Honestly, I watch very little contemporary television.  Most of it is not funny, not entertaining and somewhat embarrassing.  I know shows like ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ may seem campy to much of the t.v. audience today, but my mom didn’t have to worry about what we would see in the show.  The most risqué aspect of the show was Daisy in her denim cut-off shorts, which gave birth to the term ‘Daisy Dukes’.  Outside of that, I can’t think of one thing anyone could find truly objectionable about that show.  Week after week, in the end, everyone always ended up doing the right thing, even Sheriff Coltrane.

James Best was also a World War II vet who, ironically, served as an MP in Germany at the end of the war.  His resume includes appearances on some of the most popular shows of the 50’s and 60’s, including ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and ‘Gunsmoke’.  Actor John Schneider is quoted as saying he ‘learned more in front of the camera with Jimmy in 20 minutes than from anyone else in year’.   It’s an era that may be gone by, but one we can relive thanks to reruns and DVD box sets.   Below is a glimpse of Best as Sheriff Coltrane.  Rest in peace Sheriff Coltrane.


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