Fess Parker
Parker in 1968
Born(1924-08-16)August 16, 1924
DiedMarch 18, 2010(2010-03-18) (aged 85)
Resting placeSanta Barbara Cemetery
Alma materHardin-Simmons University
University of Texas (BA)
University of Southern California (MA)
  • Actor
  • singer
  • winemaker
  • resort owner-operator
Years active1950–2007
Known for
Marcella Belle Rinehart
(m. 1960)

Fess Elisha Parker Jr. (born F. E. Parker Jr.;[1] August 16, 1924 – March 18, 2010),[2] was an American film and television actor best known for his portrayals of the titular characters in the Walt Disney television miniseries Davy Crockett (1954–55; ABC) and the television series Daniel Boone (1964–70; NBC).[3][4]

Early years

Parker was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and raised on a farm in Tom Green County near San Angelo.[5] His father – born Fess Parker but later added the initial "E." – was a tax assessor. The name Fess had been given to him in honor of the educator and politician Simeon D. Fess.[1] The future actor decided to change his name from F.E. Parker Jr. to Fess Elisha Parker Jr. He selected the middle name himself, when he was a teenager (about 1937), because it sounded rhythmic and matched his middle initial.[1]

He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the latter part of the Second World War,[6][7] hoping to become a pilot. He was turned down because he was too tall at 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m).[8] He then tried to become a radioman gunner, but he was found too large to fit comfortably into the rear cockpit. He was finally transferred to the United States Marine Corps as a radio operator and shipped out to the South Pacific shortly before the war ended.[8]

Discharged in 1946, he enrolled at Hardin–Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, with assistance from the GI Bill. After an automobile collision, he was stabbed in the neck by the other driver during an argument.[8] He was an active member of the H-SU Players Club and transferred to the University of Texas at Austin in 1947 as a history major and continued to be active in drama. One of his roommates there was the future actor L.Q. Jones. Parker graduated from UT in 1950 with a degree in history. He had been initiated into the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Having one year remaining on his GI Bill benefits, he studied drama at the University of Southern California, where he pursued a master's degree in theater history.[2][9]


Parker began his show-business career in the summer of 1951 when he had a $32-a-week job as an extra in the play Mister Roberts,[9] although he is credited with the voice of Leslie, the chauffeur, in the 1950 film Harvey. Within months, he was on location with a minor part in Untamed Frontier with Joseph Cotten and Shelley Winters.

Parker became a contract player with Warner Bros., appearing in small roles in several films such as Springfield Rifle (1952), Island in the Sky, The Bounty Hunter and Battle Cry. In 1954, he appeared as Grat Dalton in the Jim Davis syndicated Western anthology series Stories of the Century in the episode "The Dalton Brothers".

In another 1954 appearance, Parker was cast as Curt Morrison, a cowboy/militia-marshal patrolling the land rush in the New Mexico Territory, in the episode "The Kickapoo Run" on the syndicated anthology series Death Valley Days. In the 1961 Death Valley Days episode "A Miracle at Whiskey Gulch", Parker portrayed the Reverend Joel H. Todd, who tries to instill Christian principles in a wild frontier town.[citation needed]

Davy Crockett

Main article: Davy Crockett (TV miniseries)

Fess Parker as Davy Crockett addresses the city of Philadelphia in the Walt Disney television miniseries
With Sandra Warner in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

According to Parker himself, when the Walt Disney Company was seeking an actor to play Davy Crockett, James Arness, later cast as Marshal Matt Dillon on CBS's Gunsmoke, was first considered for the title role. Parker had recently graduated to being a contract weekly actor but listened to his agent and appeared in a Warner Bros. science fiction film about giant ants called Them!, which required only one day's work. He had a small scene as a pilot put into an insane asylum after claiming his plane had been downed by giant flying insects. Arness appeared in a larger role in the same film.[10]

During the screening of this film, Walt Disney looked past Arness and discovered Parker. Disney was impressed by Parker's portrayal of a man who was unswerving in his belief in what he saw despite the forces of authority against him. Parker was asked to drop by the Disney Studio. When he did, he brought his guitar, met Disney, sang a song, and then said goodbye. Several weeks later, Parker was informed that he had been selected over Arness and several others for the role, including Buddy Ebsen, who eventually played Crockett's sidekick, Georgie Russell.[10]

Disney's three-episode version of Crockett depicted his exploits as a frontiersman, congressman, and tragic hero of the Alamo. The episodes have been called the first television miniseries, though the term had not yet been coined. Davy Crockett (1954–55) was a tremendous hit and led to a merchandising frenzy for coonskin caps and all things Crockett.[10]

Parker became a contract star for Disney and appeared in The Great Locomotive Chase, Westward Ho, the Wagons!, Old Yeller, and The Light in the Forest. He complained that they were all basically the same role. Disney refused to lend Parker for roles outside that persona, such as Jeffrey Hunter's role opposite John Wayne in The Searchers and Marilyn Monroe's leading man in Bus Stop.[11]

Parker was dissatisfied with Disney's proposal to use him only in a small role in Tonka. He was put on suspension for refusing the role, and subsequently left Disney.[12]

Post Disney

Parker made guest appearances on many television programs, and composed and sang. He performed the occasional role of Tom Conrad, editor of the Diablo Courier in the syndicated western series, Annie Oakley (1954–1957), starring Gail Davis, Brad Johnson, and Jimmy Hawkins.[13]

Parker was contracted to Paramount Pictures from 1958 to 1962. He appeared in a small assortment of Paramount movies, including a cameo as an unnamed frontiersman in Bob Hope's Western comedy Alias Jesse James and supporting roles in The Hangman (1959) with Robert Taylor, The Jayhawkers! (1959) with Jeff Chandler, and Hell Is for Heroes (1962) with Steve McQueen.

In 1962, he starred in the title role of the TV series Mr Smith Goes to Washington, portraying the same idealistic character that James Stewart had played in the 1939 film. Parker took to the stage in 1963, in a traveling production of Oklahoma! as Curly. The movie roles he sought were elusive.[10] In 1966, Parker starred in the movie Smoky, directed by George Sherman where he played the role of Clint Barkley, who finds a black stallion named Smoky, a wild stallion who eventually becomes a wonderful cutting horse and the best friend an old cowboy could ever want.

Daniel Boone

Main article: Daniel Boone (1964 TV series)

Fess Parker as Daniel Boone with Brock Peters

Parker's Daniel Boone television series portraying another historic figure of America's frontier days began filming in 1964. Over its six years (1964 to 1970) as one of the highest-rated shows of its time, Parker was not only the star of the series, but also the co-producer and director of five of its most popular episodes.[14]

Turning down the title role of McCloud, Parker retired from acting at the age of 49 after a sitcom pilot called The Fess Parker Show was broadcast on March 28, 1974, but was not subsequently picked up by the network.


Fess Parker was nominated for best new personality Emmy in 1954, but lost to George Gobel. He was never nominated again, nor was his show Daniel Boone.[15]

In 1991, he was named a Disney Legend.

In 2003, Parker received the Texas Cultural Trust's "Texas Medal of Arts Award", established only the year before.[16][17]

For his work with Disney, Parker was honored in December 2004 with his own tribute window on a façade in the Frontierland section of Disneyland.[18]

Business and politics

Parker became interested in opening a Davy Crockett-themed amusement park. In the late 1960s, he optioned land in northern Kentucky at the intersection of Interstates 71 and 75, with the intention of building Frontier Worlds. However, when the Taft Broadcasting Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, began building Kings Island Amusement Park in nearby Mason, Ohio, less than a 2-hour drive from Parker's site, financing for Parker's venture dried up.[19][20][21]

Fess Parker Winery

The Fess Parker Winery in Los Olivos, California
Fess Parker in 1985

After his acting career, Parker devoted much of his time to operating his Fess Parker Family Winery and Vineyards in Los Olivos, California.[22] The winery is owned and operated by Parker's family, and has produced several different types of award-winning wines. Parker's son, Eli, is president and director of winemaking and vineyard operations, while daughter, Ashley, is vice president of marketing and sales.[22][23]

The Parker operation includes over 1,500 acres (610 ha) of vineyards, and a tasting room and visitor center along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. In addition to wine, the winery is known for selling coonskin caps and bottle toppers inspired by Parker's Crockett and Boone characters, and for its appearance under another name in the movie Sideways. In reminiscence of his acting days, Parker's wine labels have a logo of a golden coonskin cap.[24]


In 1985, Parker briefly flirted with running in 1986 for the United States Senate as a Republican for the seat of incumbent Democrat Alan Cranston.[25] He considered himself a conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan.[26]

Personal life and death

Parker married Marcella Belle Rinehart on January 18, 1960. They had two children, Fess Elisha Parker III and Ashley Allen Rinehart, along with 11 grandchildren and a great-grandson.[14] Fess served in the navy during WWII.[27]

Parker died of natural causes on March 18, 2010, at his home in Santa Ynez, California, near the Fess Parker Winery. He is buried in the Santa Barbara Cemetery with a simple headstone, and a coonskin hat inscribed below his name.[2][28]

The handprints of Fess Parker in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park


Parker as Daniel Boone
George Sanders with Parker as Boone (1966)
Year Title Role Notes
1943 We've Never Been Licked Uncredited 1st screen appearance, may be glimped in crowd scenes
1950 Harvey Leslie Voice, Uncredited
1952 No Room for the Groom Cousin Ben Uncredited
Untamed Frontier Clem McCloud
Springfield Rifle Jim Randolph Uncredited
1953 Man on a Tightrope Checkpoint Soldier Uncredited
Take Me to Town Long John Uncredited
The Kid from Left Field McDougal
Island in the Sky Fitch's Co-Pilot Uncredited
Thunder Over the Plains Kirby
1954 Dragonfly Squadron Texas Lieutenant Uncredited
Them! Alan Crotty
The Bounty Hunter Wild Cowboy at Finale Uncredited
1955 Battle Cry Pvt. Speedy
Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier Davy Crockett
1956 The Great Locomotive Chase James J. Andrews
Davy Crockett and the River Pirates Davy Crockett
Westward Ho, The Wagons! John 'Doc' Grayson
1957 Old Yeller Jim Coates
1958 The Light in the Forest Del Hardy
1959 The Hangman Sheriff Buck Weston
Alias Jesse James Davy Crockett Uncredited
The Jayhawkers! Cam Bleeker
1962 Hell Is for Heroes Sgt. Pike
1966 Smoky Clint Barkley
Daniel Boone: Frontier Trail Rider Daniel Boone
1972 Climb an Angry Mountain Sheriff Elisha Cooper TV movie[29]


See also


  1. ^ a b c Weaver, Tom. Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde: Interviews with 62 Filmmakers, p. 148 (McFarland 2012).
  2. ^ a b c (March 18, 2010) Daniel Boone Actor Fess Parker Dies at 85" CBS News; Accessed March 18, 2010.
  3. ^ Obituary London Guardian, March 19, 2010.
  4. ^ Obituary London Independent, March 25, 2010.
  5. ^ "Disney Legends Award: Fess Parker-1991" Disney.com
  6. ^ "Davy Crockett actor Fess Parker dies, aged 85". BBC. March 19, 2010.
  7. ^ Duke, Alan (March 18, 2010). "'Daniel Boone' star Fess Parker dies". CNN.
  8. ^ a b c Remembering Fess Parker The Alcalde, Vol. 91 (no. 6), pg 34–37, University of Texas via Internet Archive. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  9. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (March 18, 2010). "Fess Parker, who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on TV, dies at 85". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
  10. ^ a b c d Richard Severo (March 19, 2010) "Fess Parker, Who as Davy Crockett Set Off Coonskin Cap Craze, Dies at 85", The New York Times Accessed March 19, 2010
  11. ^ Fess Parker Interview Playset Magazine #34
  12. ^ "MichaelBarrier.com – Interviews: Fess Parker". Michaelbarrier.com. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  13. ^ "Annie Oakley". tvacres.com. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
  14. ^ a b Official Website Biography Page Archived June 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Accessed March 18, 2010
  15. ^ Tom O'Neil (March 18, 2010) "Fess Parker had that cool coonskin cap – who needs an Emmy?" Archived March 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Los Angeles Times, Accessed March 19, 2010
  16. ^ "Talented Texans to be Honored". The Houston Chronicle. Associated Press. February 7, 2003. p. 2. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  17. ^ (March 18, 2003) "2003 Texas Medal of Arts Award Winners to Be Celebrated Tuesday, March 25" Archived October 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine PRNewswire, Accessed March 19, 2010
  18. ^ Heather Hust Rivera (December 18, 2009) "Did You Miss It? Davy Crockett’s Window in Frontierland" Disney Accessed May 25, 2010
  19. ^ "Riding History To The Limits – The Concept". CET. August 26, 2009. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  20. ^ "Coney Island History". Coney Island. Archived from the original on October 9, 2015. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  21. ^ Suess, Jeff. "Northern Kentucky's Frontier Worlds theme park lost to Kings Island". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Gannett. Archived from the original on June 14, 2021. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  22. ^ a b Official Fess Parker Website fessparker.com
  23. ^ Loe, David (June 1, 2018). "Renovated Santa Barbara resort will no longer carry Fess Parker name". Ventura County Star. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  24. ^ Eric Lindberg (March 18, 2010)"Fess Parker, famed actor and hotelier, dies at 85" Archived March 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, The Daily Sound, Accessed March 19, 2010
  25. ^ "Fess Parker Has Eye on Senate". Los Angeles Times. August 9, 1985. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  26. ^ "He Died as Davy Crockett at the Alamo, but Actor Fess Parker Lives Oh as a California Hotel Baron". People.com. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  27. ^ "Fess Elisha Parker Jr". Hardin-Simmons University. Retrieved November 20, 2023.
  28. ^ "Fess Parker dies – played Davy Crockett - Around Disney : The Orange County Register". Archived from the original on March 22, 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  29. ^ Climb An Angry Mountain 1972, YouTube