Skip to main content

'Gilligan's Island' Professor, actor Russell Johnson, dead at 89

By Alan Duke, CNN
January 17, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Click through to see<a href='http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/world/obituaries-2014'> people who passed away</a> in 2014. Click through to see people who passed away in 2014.
HIDE CAPTION
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Johnson played the iconic role of Professor Roy Hinkley on "Gilligan's Island"
  • Johnson worked up until his death, signing autographs over holidays
  • He was "just a positive and nice guy," his agent says
  • Johnson, 89, was an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II

(CNN) -- Actor Russell Johnson, best known as Professor in the 1960s TV sitcom "Gilligan's Island," died Thursday, his agent said. Johnson was 89.

Johnson played the iconic role of Professor Roy Hinkley, whose scientific schemes to get the castaways rescued were always foiled by Gilligan's bumbling.

He died at his home in Washington, where he lived with his wife, Connie. She and their daughter, Kimberly, were at his side, said agent Mike Eisenstadt. Johnson is also survived by a stepson, Court, and a grandson, he said.

Johnson worked up until his death, signing autographs over the holidays, said Eisenstadt. He called Johnson's death "unexpected."

The chief deputy coroner in Kitsap County, Washington, told CNN that Johnson died from natural causes.

Johnson was "just a positive and nice guy" who always treated people with respect, his agent said.

His acting career began in the early 1950s with many jobs as a character actor on television. He played Marshal Gib Scott in two seasons of "Black Saddle," a Western that ran in 1959 and 1960.

Johnson acted in dozens of television shows after the four seasons on "Gilligan's Island," but his career seemed stranded on its own island because of the popular sitcom role.

A noteworthy big screen role was as a nuclear physicist in the 1955 science fiction film "This Island Earth."

Share your memories

Johnson was in Ray Bradbury's 1953 sci-fi classic "It Came From Outer Space."

Before becoming an actor, Johnson served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. He was on a B-24 Liberator when it was shot down during a bombing raid over the Philippines in 1945, according to his official biography, and used his G.I. Bill benefits to pay for acting school after the war.

Johnson, in a 2004 interview for the Archive of American Television said the success of "Gilligan's Island, which he never expected to last more than the initial order of 13 episodes, was the result of the "great chemistry" of the cast.

Tina Louise, who played the glamorous Hollywood starlet Ginger on "Gilligan's Island said she was " very saddened to hear of the passing of Russell Johnson."

"My prayers and condolences go out to his wife Constance and his family," Louise said. "He will always be in our hearts and remembered from Gilligan's island as part of American pop culture history. He will truly be missed."

Advice to young actors

Johnson's advice to young actors was to "prepare yourself."

"Most of us have to really learn how to do what we do, and that takes some studying and being part of an acting group," he said. "Preparation is everything, and that means studying."

Another important ingredient to acting success is perseverance, he said. "You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't persevere, if you don't stick to it, it doesn't mean anything."

CNN's Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 2142 GMT (0542 HKT)
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1204 GMT (2004 HKT)
Gabriel García Márquez, the influential, Nobel Prize-winning author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera," has died at age 87.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jose Luis "Cheo" Feliciano, a giant of salsa music and Puerto Rican legend, died in a car crash in San Juan, police said. He was 78.
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 0801 GMT (1601 HKT)
Born James Hellwig, before legally changing his name to Ultimate in 1993, he is fondly remembered by many for his rivalries in the ring and for his trademark vivid face paint.
April 7, 2014 -- Updated 2050 GMT (0450 HKT)
Actor Mickey Rooney, one of Hollywood's brightest stars in the 1930s and 1940s, died in California at age 93.
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 2223 GMT (0623 HKT)
Model and TV personality Peaches Geldof, daughter of Irish musician and Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof, has died at age 25.
April 7, 2014 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
Comedian John Pinette was found dead in a Pittsburgh hotel room. He was 50 years old.
April 3, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
DJ Frankie Knuckles, who died at 59, is remembered as a legendary producer, remixer and house music pioneer.
April 3, 2014 -- Updated 1306 GMT (2106 HKT)
Kate O'Mara, the British actress best known for playing Joan Collins' sister Caress on the 1980s show "Dynasty," has died. She was 74.
March 26, 2014 -- Updated 1203 GMT (2003 HKT)
Ralph C. Wilson Jr. -- the founder and longtime beloved owner of the Buffalo Bills, not to mention a leading figure in the NFL's rise to prominence -- has died.
March 25, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
Gwar lead singer Dave Brockie has died at age 50.
March 25, 2014 -- Updated 1952 GMT (0352 HKT)
James Rebhorn, whose acting resume includes a long list of character roles in major films and TV shows, has died at age 65.
March 23, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Former Spanish Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez died at age 81 after long illness.
March 25, 2014 -- Updated 0606 GMT (1406 HKT)
Fred Phelps, the founding pastor of a Kansas church known for its virulently anti-gay protests at public events, including military funerals, has died.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1910 GMT (0310 HKT)
L'Wren Scott, a noted fashion designer who has been Mick Jagger's companion for more than a decade, was found dead in her apartment of an apparent suicide. She was 49.
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Scott Asheton, who co-founded and played drums for the influential proto-punk band the Stooges, has died. He was 64.
ADVERTISEMENT