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Issue of July 23, 2014
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Actor calls Corydon childhood home


Celebrating Statehood


July 09, 2014 | 12:04 PM

Did you know that the actor James Best, who played many Hollywood roles, including Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV series, grew up in Corydon?

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James (Jimmie) Best began life as Jule Franklin Guy, born July 26, 1926, to Larkin Jasper and Lena Mae Everly Guy in Powderly, Ky. He was a first cousin of the famed Everly Brothers singing duo.

His mother died when he was 3, and he was placed in an orphanage. One day, Essa Knowland Best of Corydon, visited the orphanage on business. He clung to the orphanage fence and pleaded with her, a complete stranger, to take him home with her. Although she hadn't made the trip with the idea of adopting a child, surprisingly, she brought him home and presented him to her husband Armen Best, a local gunsmith, as their new son. The couple adopted the youngster.

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Former Corydon resident James Best took up acting and played many Hollywood roles, including Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV series.
At the time, the family lived near the West Bridge in Corydon. The Bests later moved to a one-story shotgun-style house built in 1904-05 along High Street, the second house east of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Both Best houses are still standing, and the High Street house is marked with a plaque.

Growing up along Indian Creek, Jimmie developed a love for fishing and hunting with his dad and became a Boy Scout, once winning a lifesaving award for rescuing a fellow Scout at a Scout camp. Jimmie worked at Kroger, the five-and-dime store and Keller Manufacturing Co. He graduated from Corydon High School in 1944.

After graduation, Best joined the Army Air Corps. He was sent to Germany and assigned to the M.P. (military police) Unit. Best became interested in acting and got a part in Arthur Penn's theatrical company's production of "My Sister Eileen." After being discharged from the military, Best embarked on a successful acting career, which has spanned more than 60 years.

Best has appeared in more than 600 television episodes, including roles on the "Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock" and others. He is remembered for his appearances as the guitar-playing Jim Lindsey on "The Andy Griffith Show" in the episodes "The Guitar Player" and "The Return of the Guitar Player," even though he did not actually know how to play the guitar.

Best's most well-known role was as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV series, which ran for seven years in the 1980s.

He also has appeared in 83 feature films, working with greats like Paul Newman, Jerry Lewis, Jimmie Stewart, Burt Reynolds and other notables.

Best, who also is a talented painter, founded a successful acting school called "The Best School of Motion Picture Technique," and many famous actors, including Teri Garr, Lindsay Wagner, Gary Busey and Brad Pitt have attended. He also taught film technique at the University of Mississippi.

He released his biography, "Best in Hollywood: The Good, The Bad and the Beautiful," in 2009. Best has recently remade one of his classics, cult film "Attack of the Killer Shrews," which was originally released in 1959.

Best, who lives in Hickory, N.C., with his wife, Dorothy, returned to Corydon for a homecoming event sponsored by the Historical Society of Harrison County in the summer of 2010. He presented his one-man show three times at Hayswood Theatre in Corydon; the show features Best telling the story of his career interspersed with film clips.

A highlight came on the final night when Best was surprised with the gift of his father's gun bench which the Historical Society of Harrison County had acquired and restored.

Additionally, Best was honored with an engraved boulder by the Indian Creek Trail Committee on the Indian Creek trailhead across from the Corydon Post Office. "Jimmie Best Day" also was proclaimed in the town of Corydon.

A Jimmie Best Film Festival, featuring "Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair," "Left-handed Gun," "Hooper," "Attack of the Killer Shrews" and episodes featuring Best's appearances on "The Andy Griffith Show," "Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and the "Dukes of Hazzard" was presented.

Best also visited Corydon in September 2013 as Harrison County Arts! featured an exhibition of Best's work in the Artisan Center in Corydon. He also presented a one-man show at the Corydon Jamboree on Sept. 18, 2013.

Karen Schwartz, president of the Historical Society of Harrison County, serves on the legacy group of the Harrison County Committee for the Indiana Bicentennial. In preparation of Indiana's bicentennial in 2016, she is providing a monthly column — focusing on a person, place or event from Harrison County's history — that gives insight to our history. She said the columns should serve as an introduction and/or summary of a topic but are not intended to include all known facts and information. To suggest a topic, contact Schwartz at 812-736-2373 or 812-738-2828, by e-mail at karengleitz@hotmail.com or by regular mail at 5850 Devil's Elbow Road NW, Corydon, IN 47112.

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