James Arness is Dead

James Arness, the 6-foot-6 actor best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon, the strong and commanding symbol of frontier justice on the landmark TV western series "Gunsmoke," in 1967 died on Friday, June 3. He was 88.

Arness died in his sleep at his home in Brentwood, California according to family spokeswoman Ginny Fazer.

The actor's official website jamesarness.com posted a letter on Friday from himself stating how lucky he is for having such a wonderful family and friends who love him so dearly and how he appreciates all the support he is continuously getting from his fans over the last four decades: “I had a wonderful life and was blessed with some many loving people and great friends,” he said.

I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for the many years of being a fan of Gun-smoke, The Thing, How the West Was Won and all the other fun projects I was lucky enough to have been allowed to be a part of. I had the privilege of working with so many great actors over the years.”

Born James King Aurness in Minneapolis on May 26, 1923, he is suvived by his wife Janet Surtees, two sons and six grandchildren. A private memorial service will be held for family only.

In lieu of flowers the family asks that donation be made to United Cerebral Palsy in Jim’s name.