Actor Larry Hagman dies at Dallas hospital

Posted 2:14am on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012

Actor Larry Hagman, the North Texas native who became world-famous as the conniving and mischievous J.R. Ewing on the TV show Dallas, died Friday at a Dallas hospital. He was 81.

Mr. Hagman died at 4:20 p.m. Friday at Medical City Dallas Hospital of complications of cancer, his family said in a statement released to The Dallas Morning News, which first reported the story. Former co-stars Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy were among those with him when he died.

"Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most," the statement said. "Larry’s family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for. The family requests privacy at this time."

The iconic role of J.R. Ewing transformed Mr. Hagman's life. He rocketed from being a merely well-known TV actor on I Dream of Jeannie and the son of Broadway legend Mary Martin to international fame.

The series ran first from 1978-91, and was revived this year on TNT with three original cast members — Mr. Hagman, Gray and Duffy. The show is filmed entirely in Dallas.

Mr. Hagman made his home in California with his wife of nearly 60 years, the former Maj Axelsson. Despite obvious physical frailty, he gamely returned to Dallas to film season one of the Dallas reboot and part of season two.

Gray's agent, Jeffrey Lane, said the actress was at Mr. Hagman’s bedside when he died, according to The Sun in London.He said Duffy, was also present.

“They had been friends for 35 years and they had worked together for many years, so obviously it is devastating,” Mr. Lane told The Sun.

Larry Hagman was born in Fort Worth in 1931 to Ben Hagman and his teen-age bride, Mary Martin, a Weatherford native, who went on to become a beloved Broadway star. Her signature roles were in South Pacific and Peter Pan.

He lived in Weatherford only until age 5, then moved away until returning as a student at Weatherford High School, according to Star-Telegram archives. He graduated in 1949, playing junior-varsity football briefly and boxing under a coach who went on to become a U.S. House speaker, Jim Wright.

In 1994, the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce named Hagman its Citizen of the Year.

In 2003, he told Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy, “I wanted to be a cowboy.”

But after working in an oil-field equipment factory for businessman Jess Hall Sr., and baling hay and dynamite Parker County caliche for the family’s swimming pool, “It made me understand how hard physical labor is. I figured there had to be a better way to earn a living. I came home and said, ‘I want to be an actor.’ ”

In 1995, Mr. Hagman had a liver transplant. He had advanced cirrhosis of the liver, which he blamed on years of heavy drinking. In July 1995 a malignant tumor was found on his liver.

He became an ambassador for organ donation.


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