“The Andy Griffith Show” was known for making household names of almost all its stars. Among them is Jim Nabors, who played the amiable and simple Gomer Pyle.
When he first starred in the third season of the immensely popular television show that ran from 1960 to 1968, Nabors’ character was not meant to have such a big part. However, Nabors’ turn as a Mayberry gas station attendant proved to be so popular with audiences that he became a series regular. His character also eventually had his own spin-off show, called “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” that ran from 1964 to 1969, based on his time after he enlisted in the military.
Prior to finding fame on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Nabors had made his television debut on “Today in Dixie” and was also a member of the Grace United Methodist Church choir in North Augusta. The singing skills he picked up here would become useful to him later on in his career.
After wrapping up “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” Nabors starred in the variety show “The Jim Nabors Hour,” which allowed him to showcase his baritone singing voice. He continued to make appearances in various television shows, including “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Lost Saucer” and “The Love Boat.” At the behest of his good friend Burt Reynolds, Nabors agreed to star in three of his films – “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” alongside country superstar Dolly Parton, “Stroker Ace” and “Cannonball Run II.” All the films garnered quite negative reviews, with the latter earning Nabors a Golden Raspberry Award.
Nabors returned to television to reprise his role as Gomer Pyle and reunite with “The Andy Griffith Show” cast in “Return To Mayberry.” Nabors then began performing on stage in Hawaii and Las Vegas.
In January 2013, Nabors married his boyfriend of almost four decades, Stan Cadwallader. Although he had never officially come out to the press as a gay man, he said he had never intentionally hidden his sexuality either. He told Hawaii News Now shortly after his marriage that he was not ashamed of his relationship.
“I’m 82 and he’s in his 60s and so we’ve been together for 38 years and I’m not ashamed of people knowing, it’s just that it was such a personal thing, I didn’t tell anybody,” Nabors told the outlet.
“I’m very happy that I’ve had a partner of 38 years and I feel very blessed. And, what can I tell you, I’m just very happy.”
Nabors had met Cadwallader in Honolulu in the 1960s, where the latter worked as a fireman. In the 1970s, Nabors moved to the island, buying a 500-acre macadamia ranch, which he eventually sold. In 1992, he bought an oceanfront plantation estate in Honolulu’s Ke’ahamoe Bay, built over 5,900 square feet. The two-story home boasted five bedrooms, six bathrooms and an upper-floor living room that opened up to a covered lanai, according to the Los Angeles Times. The property also comprised a swimming pool and accompanying pool house. After Nabors’s death, the estate was sold for $12 million, almost $3 million less than the asking price.
It was from this home that Nabors and Cadwallader traveled in 2013 to Seattle, where same-sex marriage had been legalized the month prior in December 2012, to exchange vows on Jan. 15, 2021. Nabors told Hawaii News Now a judge had performed the private marriage ceremony in their hotel room. Witnesses included a few friends who lived down the street from them. Nabors added that he was happy with the low-key ceremony.
“I haven’t ever made a public spectacle of it. Well, I’ve known since I was a child, so, come on. It’s not that kind of a thing. I’ve never made a huge secret of it at all,” Nabors told the outlet.
“This is really no big deal. My friend and I, my partner, we went through all of this 38 years ago. So I mean, we made our vows and that was it. It was to each other, but nevertheless, we were a couple.”
He added marriage was the perfect choice for himself and Cadwallader.
“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something. And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”
After Nabors received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991, he contracted hepatitis B on a trip to India in 1994 and was forced to undergo a liver transplant. Nabors then went back to performing, including before each Indianapolis 500 race, which he did from 1972 to 2014.
But on Nov. 30, 2017, tragedy struck: Nabors passed away in his Honolulu home at the age of 87, believed to be of natural causes. His husband said Nabors death had come after a long period of illness.
“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed,” Cadwallader told AP.
His passing elicited tributes from veterans of the entertainment industry at the time, including Larry King and Carol Burnett. Even the United States Marine Corps paid tribute to Nabors: “Semper Fi, Gomer Pyle. Rest in peace Jim Nabors, one of the few to ever be named an Honorary Marine.”
Did you know Jim Nabors was gay and had married his longtime boyfriend a few years before he passed? Were you a fan of his back in the 1960s and 1970s? Let us know, and pass this on to family and friends who might find his story inspiring.