Fess Parker

Fess Parker, who starred as Davy Crockett on the wildly popular 1950s TV series of the same name, died Thursday of natural causes, The Associated Press reported. He was 85.

Parker died at his Santa Ynez Valley home in California, on his wife Marcella's 84th birthday, family spokeswoman Sao Anash told the news service. Anash also said Parker was coherent and speaking with family minutes before he died.

Parker rose to national fame when Davy Crockett debuted as part of an early Walt Disney anthology TV show in 1954. He was also widely known for his portrayal of another famous historical figure in Daniel Boone, a TV series that ran from 1964 to '70.

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During its heyday, Davy Crockett inspired a national craze for coonskin caps and the hit song "The Ballad of Davy Crockett." At the peak of the coonskin craze, 5,000 caps were sold a day.

Crockett was killed off in 1955 in the third episode, "Davy Crockett at the Alamo," but due to popular demand, the series was quickly brought back for two more episodes.

"Like many kids growing up in the 50's, Davy Crockett was my first hero, and I had the coonskin cap to prove it," said Disney CEO Bob Iger. "Fess Parker's unforgettable, exciting and admirable performance as this American icon has remained with me all these years, as it has for his millions of fans around the world. Fess is truly a Disney Legend, as is the heroic character he portrayed, and while he will certainly be missed, he will never be forgotten."

After the series went off the air in 1955, Parker worked regularly in both TV and films. He starred as the father in Old Yeller and starred in the TV version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

After Daniel Boone ended in 1970, Parker largely retired from acting. He went into real estate and opened a vineyard on California's Central Coast with his wife in 1989 — the Fess Parker Winery. A Texas native, he graduated from the University of Texas.

Parker is survived by his wife, two children and 11 grandchildren.