Legendary ‘Gunsmoke’ Actor James Arness Dies At Age 88

Written by Michael Lambarde on Jun. 05, 2011

Legendary star of television’s Gunsmoke, James Arness, has died of natural causes at the age of 88 in his Brentwood home in Los Angeles, California. Arness was best known for portraying 6-foot-7 Marshal Matt Dillon for 20 years on one of the longest running weekly episodic television dramas in history, which aired from 1955-1975 for a record-breaking 635 episodes. After his appearance on the hit CBS drama came to an end, he then appeared in made-for-television Gunsmoke movies in the late 80s and early 90s.

IN MEMORIAM PHOTO GALLERY: Classic shots of James Arness on Gunsmoke and later in his life

Arness is survived by his second wife Janet Surtees, whom he was married to since 1978, and his son Rolf, age 59. His son Craig, a photographer for National Geographic, died in 2004, and his late daughter Jenny died back in 1975 at the age of 25 as a result of suicide. Arness’ death comes just after a year after his brother Peter Graves of Mission Impossible fame died in March of 2010. Both were born and raised in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area.