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‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Russell Johnson Dead at 89

Turner Entertainment

Russell Johnson, the veteran TV actor best known for playing Professor Roy Hinkley on ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ passed away from kidney failure on Thursday. He was 89.

In a statement to ABC News, Johnson’s wife Constance said, “He died at home, peaceful, in his sleep at 5:21 am today. [He was] a very brave guy who knew what he wanted, and he wanted to be at home.”

Born in 1924, Johnson’s acting career began in 1950 following a highly decorated stint in the United States Air Force, where he flew dozens of combat missions during World War II. He worked steadily throughout the ’50s and ’60s, appearing in countless TV shows and movies, eventually becoming a regular on ‘Black Saddle’ in 1959. He was cast as the Professor in ‘Gilligan’s Island’ in 1964 and the rest is TV history. Although not particularly beloved at the time, the show has become iconic over the past 50 years. Every TV fan has joked at least once about how the Professor could build all kind of technology out of scraps but couldn’t fix the slightly damaged boat that had stranded him and his shipmates.

Although ‘Gilligan’s Island’ ended up being his definitive role (and one that he embraced whole-heartedly), he continued to work, appearing on shows like ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ‘Dallas,’ ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘The Jeffersons,’ ‘MacGyver,’ ‘Newhart,’ ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Alf.’ He stepped away from acting in 1997.

Johnson leaves behind a wife and countless friends and fans, including ‘Gilligan’s Island’ co-star Dawn Wells, who paid tribute to him on Facebook:

My two favorite people are now gone.  The professor passed away this morning.  My heart is broken. Russell was a true gentleman, a good father, a great friend, and ‘the rest.’

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