Addicted to all the westerns as a kid, Wyatt Earp was one of my favorites. Hugh was a great-looking guy, even though, in black and white, you just knew he didn't have Richard Long's gorgeous blue eyes. So, Richard was always #1 for me. Yet they were great friends in the old Universal Studio System - he was in attendance when Richard and Suzan got married - stayed a supportive friend through her cancer and was one of her pallbearers when she passed.
His dad was in the Marine Corps, and he followed suit - enlisting and becoming the youngest drill sergeant at the time. Was going to go to law school, but got into acting through an actress girlfriend, and was discovered by the wonderful actress and director Ida Lupino. Got married for the FIRST time at age 81 to his girlfriend, a teacher, whom he had dated for 18 years prior - no rash decision there!! He and Virginia went to England for their honeymoon and studied philosophy at Oxford, a subject that was also close to Richard's heart. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at their late-night discussions years earlier. He went to Africa to meet Albert Schweitzer and was so impressed with the good doctor's service that he came home and founded a youth leadership organization in 1959 for promising high school sophomores. Schweitzer believed that the most important thing was to teach children to think for themselves. Supporting those efforts became Hugh's major passion after his acting career waned, and in 1999, there were over 200,000 graduates from the HOBY program (Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership).
He was a great actor who trod the boards and was on screen with some of the brightest lights in Hollywood - a friend of John Wayne and Ronald Reagan.
But I think this quote from Wikipedia sums up the man more than any resume:
O'Brian's message to young people is “Freedom to Choose” as explained in an essay on the topic:
I do NOT believe we are all born equal. Created equal in the eyes of God, yes, but physical and emotional differences, parental guidelines, varying environments, being in the right place at the right time, all play a role in enhancing or limiting an individual's development. But I DO believe every man and woman, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize their potential, regardless of background, has the freedom to choose in our world. Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life? Will that person be satisfied merely to exist or seek a meaningful purpose? Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream? I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose, to share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.He died peacefully at home with Virginia at age 91. She said "I've lost my cowboy of 28 years." Many of us here in The Big Valley know exactly what you mean, Virginia. Our thoughts and prayers are with you