James Best, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, has passed away. Rather than mourn his passing, I choose to celebrate his long, amazing life. And to do that, I’ve spent the day recalling all the fond memories I have of him, as I’m sure many of you have also done. I was fortunate to have a unique personal relationship with Jimmie. I have Craig Byrne to thank for that. He told Jimmie about this little website I ran dedicated to the Hazzard County Sheriff’s Department (which later became this site). Jimmie visited it, liked what he saw, and sent me an email on June 5, 1996. Yes, I marked the date. What fan wouldn’t?
It’s hard to condense a friendship down to a blog post, but I’ll do my best to share my best memories of the man. I first met Jimmie in person on the set of the first Dukes of Hazzard reunion, along with Craig Byrne. We were his guests. Upon seeing me, before he even spoke, Jimmie gave me a huge bear hug. He was a great hugger and that was the first of many I’d get over the years. Craig and I spent a most amazing and surreal day with “Rosco P. Coltrane” and the rest of the cast. Jimmie was a consummate professional and we got to see that first hand on the set. We also enjoyed several personal moments with him while we were there. I think one that stuck out the most for both of us was when “Rosco” stole Craig’s french fries at lunch in the WB commissary. In Craig’s words, “Holy $***! Rosco just stole my french fry.” It was hysterical. That’s a word I have used multiple times today when sharing stories about Jimmie with friends. Jimmie was hysterically funny. He loved making people laugh. He loved having a good time.
You’d think you couldn’t top a day on set with Jimmie as the best time ever, but you’d be wrong. My best memory of Jimmie involves a day fishing on the St. John’s River. As we left the marina, the livewell was seriously overflowing. I propped my feet up on the side of the boat, out of the growing puddle of water on the bottom, and tried to get Jimmie’s attention. “Hey, Jimmie? Uhh, Jimmie?” But with the engine noise and the fact he had hearing loss (from WWII), I had to start yelling. He finally turned around and it was a total “Rosco” moment. “Wooo gee!” It was hilarious. He fixed everything up and got the pump going to drain the livewell. He was laughing at me “Here we are sinking in gator infested waters and you’re all non-chalant.” “Well,” I told him, “I don’t have to outswim the gator. I only have to outswim you. I’m pretty sure I can do that.” We spent the day trading stories and jokes and not catching much in the way of fish at all. In fact, the only thing I caught was an old net attached to an anchor. Having nothing to show for our day, I decided we should pose with it as if it were a prize catch and Jimmie obliged.
Jimmie wasn’t funny all the time. He had a serious side as well. We had many private, serious moments, which I won’t talk about here, because, well, they were private. We discussed the mysteries of life, spiritual matters, medical issues, “what ifs”, and even death. He told me that some of the things he shared with me, he’d never told anyone else before. Because of that, I cherish these moments even more than the fun times. I remember spending many hours consoling him after the death of one of his beloved beagles. I calmed him down many times when he’d lose his cool. We shared a unique connection.
As I give Craig credit for my friendship with Jimmie, I have to give credit to Jimmie for bringing me together with my best friend, my husband. It was our mutual love of Rosco that brought us together and when my husband finally got to meet Jimmie, we told him just that.
There have been so many great memories swirling around in my head today, stories from Jimmie’s days in Hollywood, tales from WWII, personal moments. It’s hard to put them all down in one blog post. Perhaps, I shouldn’t even try. Perhaps I should just continue to share the good times as they occur to me. A lot of them are already documented on the site here.
Some short, sweet remembrances:
– Spending Jimmie’s 75th birthday with him at his home and seeing video greetings to him from Paul Newman and Burt Reynolds
– Watching Jimmie compete in a fast draw competition and coming in second with an unbelievable time of 4/10ths of a second. (He was about 70 at the time.)
– Playing Call of Duty together. When we played co-op and had to go up stairs in a building where we knew the enemy was, I’d always say “Age before beauty” and he’d counter with another funny line. Inevitably, he’d try chucking a grenade upstairs only to have it bounce back and kill us both. LOL!
– On the reunion set, on a break from a photo shoot, Jimmie did a hilarious bump and grind that had all of us nearly on the ground from laughter.
– During the second reunion, when Sonny was backing the car out of the camp site, he ran into the tent and nearly took it down. Without missing a beat or breaking character, Jimmie yelled “Enos! You dipstick!” The whole set erupted in laughter.
You’ll be missed by so many, Jimmie. Rest In Peace.
You can ready Jimmie’s obituary here.