James Best

James Best

88 (passed away Apr. 6th, 2015)
Jul. 26th, 1926
Born in
Powderly, Kentucky, USA
6' 1

James Best's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
The Dukes of Hazzard TV Show
The Dukes of Hazzard
Enos TV Show
The Dukes TV Show
The Dukes

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


James Best (born July 26, 1926) is an American actor, who in his six decades of television is best known for his starring role as bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the CBS television series The Dukes of Hazzard. He has also worked as an acting coach, artist, college professor, and musician.

Best was born as Jules Guy in Powderly in Muhlenberg County in Western Kentucky, in 1926. His mother was the sister of Ike Everly, the father of the pop duo the Everly Brothers.

After his mother died in 1929, the three-year-old was sent to live in an orphanage. He was later adopted by Armen (1897-1984) and Essa Best (1896-1988) and went to live with them in Corydon in Harrison County in southern Indiana. They re-named him James K. Best.

Following high school he worked briefly as a metalworker before joining the Army shortly after World War II, in December, 1945.

According to Best, he first acted in a European tour of "My Sister Eileen" directed by 'Arthur Penn'. Upon his return to the U.S., he toured in road and stock companies in plays and musicals, and was finally spotted by a scout from Universal Pictures, who put him under contract.

During the 1950s and '60s, he was a familiar face in movies and television in a wide range of roles, from Western bad guys to craven cowards and country bumpkins.

He worked in both acting and producing capacities for 'Burt Reynolds' on several of the latter's films in the late 1970s, before taking on his greatest commercial success.

Although the The Dukes of Hazzard (1979) series was far beneath his talents, his role as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane was the part that gave him his greatest fame.

He later moved to Florida and taught at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Now semi-retired, Best runs a production company and takes occasional acting roles. He has also earned a name for himself as an artist and painter. Best formerly resided in Hickory, North Carolina, before moving once again, this time to Lake Murray, South Carolina.

A highly respected acting coach, Best taught drama and acting techniques for more than twenty-five years in Los Angeles. His acting school listed some of the top names in Hollywood as pupils. He also served as artist-in-residence and taught drama at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, for two years prior to his stint on The Dukes of Hazzard.

In 2009, James Best completed his autobiography, Best In Hollywood: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful. The book, published in 2009 through Bear Manor Media, premiered at the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Aberdeen, Maryland.

In 1959, Best married the former Jobee Ayers, and the couple had two daughters, Janeen and Jojami. They divorced in 1977. Best also has a son, Gary, from a previous marriage.

He married his third (and current) wife, Dorothy Best, in 1986. Best is the uncle of actress and model 'Jennifer Lyons' and the father-in-law of actor-singer 'Michael Damian'.

  • His billing for _Three on a Couch (1966)_ (qv) read: "Introducing James Best", despite the fact that he had been in movies for 16 years and had appeared in over 30 films.
  • Father of 'Janeen Damian' (qv).
  • Moved to Florida in 1987 and taught on campus at the University of Central Florida. He was also appointed to the Advisory Council for the Motion Picture, Television, and Recording Industry of Florida. In 1992 he was the recipient of Florida's "Crystal Reel Award" for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series, for an episode of "In the Heat of the Night" with 'Carroll O'Connor' (qv).
  • Director 'Quentin Tarantino' (qv) has said that the work of Best "taught me how to act". Ironically, when Tarantino appeared in a 1990s Broadway revival of the play "Wait Until Dark", he received some of his worst acting reviews ever.
  • A former B-17 gunner.
  • The son of a coal miner.
  • Has a black belt in karate.
  • Cousin of singers 'Don Everly' (qv) and 'Phil Everly' (qv).

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