Ken Curtis


Ken Curtis was an American actor and singer who rose to fame in the 1950s and 1960s. He appeared in numerous films and television shows throughout his career, but he is perhaps best known for his role as Festus Haggen in the long-running western series, Gunsmoke. Curtis was a talented performer who had a successful career in both acting and music. However, his life was not without tragedy, and he passed away at a relatively young age. In this post, we will take a look at Curtis’s life, career, and tragic death.

Early Life and Career

Ken Curtis

Childhood and Family

Ken Curtis was born on July 2, 1916, in Lamar, Colorado. His birth name was Curtis Wain Gates, but he later changed it to Ken Curtis when he began his career in show business. Curtis’s father was a sheriff, and his mother was a schoolteacher. He grew up in Las Animas, Colorado, and attended college at Colorado State University.

Acting Career

Curtis began his acting career in the 1940s, appearing in small roles in films such as The Devil’s Playground and The Sea Hornet. He also had a recurring role on the television series, The Adventures of Kit Carson. In the 1950s, Curtis appeared in several western films, including The Searchers and The Quiet Gun. However, it was his role as Festus Haggen on Gunsmoke that made him a household name. Curtis played the character from 1964 until the show’s end in 1975.

Music Career

Early Years

In addition to his acting career, Ken Curtis was also a talented singer. He began his music career in the 1940s, singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He later formed his own singing group, The Sons of the Pioneers, and recorded several albums with them. Curtis also recorded several solo albums throughout his career, including Have a Happy Holiday with Ken Curtis and The Ken Curtis Collection.


Ken Curtis’s music has had a lasting impact on the country music genre. He was inducted into the Western Music Association Hall of Fame in 1989, and his recordings continue to be popular among country music fans today.

Tragic Death

Cause of Death

On April 28, 1991, Ken Curtis took his own life at his home in Fresno, California. He was 74 years old. The exact reasons for his suicide are not known, but it is believed that he was suffering from health problems and financial difficulties at the time.


Despite his tragic death, Ken Curtis’s legacy as an actor and musician lives on. He is remembered for his iconic role as Festus Haggen on Gunsmoke and his contributions to the country music genre. His family continues to honor his memory, and a family photo of Ken Curtis can be found on his official website.

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