‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Watched Show to Cheer Himself Up After Richard Nixon’s Death

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

Watching an old episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies” actually helped one of its stars cheer up after former President Richard Nixon’s death.

Buddy Ebsen, who played Jed Clampett on the classic TV sitcom, was a lifelong Republican. In a 1995 interview with South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Ebsen’s third wife Dorothy talked about her husband struggling with Nixon’s passing. Nixon died on April 22, 1994, at 81 years old.

Dorothy Ebsen commented that Buddy always would do his best to stay upbeat and positive. A rare exception? Nixon.

“When President Nixon died, Buddy became very depressed,” she said. “But he came home from the funeral and played a tape of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ and it cheered him up.”

‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Had Not One, But Two Hit Series on CBS

As for Buddy Ebsen, he died on July 6, 2003, at 95 years old. He grew up in Florida, then found his way to Broadway and, ultimately, out to Hollywood.

“The Beverly Hillbillies” was a nine-season winner for CBS, running between 1962-71. Ebsen came into the show after playing in the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with actress Audrey Hepburn. Yet Ebsen’s time on TV wasn’t done quite yet.

In 1973, he returned to CBS and joined the private investigator ranks as “Barnaby Jones.” The show would run for seven seasons, ending in 1980.

Classic TV fans, from one generation to another, continue to watch “The Beverly Hillbillies.” It helped show creator Paul Henning get in good with CBS, where he produced two other rating winners in “Green Acres” and “Petticoat Junction.”

Besides Ebsen, other cast members on “The Beverly Hillbillies” included Irene Ryan, Max Baer Jr., Donna Douglas, Raymond Bailey, and Nancy Kulp.

Baer Jr. Fondly Recalls His Close Relationship With Ebsen

Baer Jr. and Ebsen hit it off pretty quickly, yet it was Ebsen taking an almost fatherly position with the young actor who played Jethro Bodine.

In an interview with The Five Count radio show, Baer Jr. talked about his close relationship with Ebsen.

“The Beverly Hillbillies” lead actor took on that fatherly role “because my dad [heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer] had just died in 1959 and this is in 1962,” he said. “So he just took over for my dad. He was the same age as my dad, born in about the same time. [Ebsen] knew my dad pretty well. So it was pretty easy for me, for Buddy and I to become close.”

Ebsen and Baer Jr. did spend time together, especially when the boat-crazy Ebsen tried teaching his young costar about sailing.

“I would go down there, he tried to teach me to sail on his 36-foot Labworth down in Balboa Island where he had a house,” Baer Jr. said. “As a sailor, I was a very good anchor.”

They’d also get together for dinner once a week when the show was in its original run.

“He had some little places he would take me to and sometimes at lunch, he had a little guy named George George who would come over and cook for him in his dressing room,” Baer Jr. said. “And he’d invite me up to his dressing room and have lunch with him.”