Happy Birthday Jim Nabors: Remembering the ‘Gomer Pyle, USMC’ and ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star

by Anna Dunn

Today would have been actor Jim Nabors’ birthday. He was born on June 12th, 1930, and passed away on November 30, 2017 in his Honolulu home.

Nabors first began acting after Andy Griffith discovered him while he was working at a nightclub in Santa Monica, California. After that, Griffith cast Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show. His character was based partially on Nabors’ act at the nightclub.

Gomer Pyle is arguably one of the most well-known TV characters in classic TV history. People loved Gomer so much he even had his own spinoff show, Gomer Pyle, USMC.

Nabors got along quite well with his co-stars on The Andy Griffith Show. Him, Andy Griffith, and Don Knotts performed stage shows along with the filmed episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. He was, however, a novice actor when starting out, and admitted Knotts was so funny it was hard for him not to break character.

Nabors Sang at the Indy 500 Almost Yearly

Jim Nabors loved singing at the Indy 500. In fact, he loved it so much that he sang Back Home Again in Indiana before the race began from 1972 through 2014. He only stopped when his health limited his ability to travel to the state.

Apparently at the beginning of his time with the Indianapolis 500, the star was so nervous about forgetting the lyrics to the song that he wrote it on his hand.

“Jim Nabors was definitely someone who made the Indianapolis 500 even bigger and better than it was,” three-time winner Helio Castroneves told the Indianapolis motor speedway blog. He went on to say that Nabors’ voice always “set the stage” for the big race.

Jim Nabors had a Long and Successful Career

Singing at the Indy 500 became a yearly event, but Nabors had an incredibly successful career outside of that. After The Andy Griffith Show Nabors went on to star in multiple variety shows as well as have his own spinoff show. He landed a few film roles during his time as well, both comedic and dramatic. This included parts in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “Stroker Ace,” and “Cannonball Run II.”

On top of acting, Nabors was just as much a singer. His first album, Jim Nabors Sings sold over one million copies worldwide. He recorded over two dozen records. He spent many years touring and performing.

In the 1970s, Nabors moved to Honolulu, Hawai’i right next to his close friend Carol Burnett. He moved with his partner, Stan Cadwallader, who he married in 2013 in Washington when gay marriage was legalized in the state.

Whether it was on The Andy Griffith Show or through song, Jim Nabors provided joy and entertainment to millions for decades and made profound connections, friendships, and relationships along the way.