Terry Wilson was an American actor and stunt performer who was best known for his role as Bill Hawks, the assistant trail master, in the western television series Wagon Train. He appeared in all 267 episodes of the show, which aired from 1957 to 1965. He also worked with John Wayne in several films, such as Sands of Iwo Jima and Rio Grande. He was part of the John Ford stock troupe and a friend of Ward Bond, the star of Wagon Train.
Early Life and Career
Terry W. Wilson was born on September 3, 1923, in Huntington Park, California. He served with the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. Upon leaving the service, Warner Bros. chose Wilson among a group of athletes to train for the stunt profession. His initial specialties were fistfights and horse work. He appeared in more than 35 films and television programs between 1948 and 1981. Many of his early roles were uncredited.
Wagon Train and Beyond
In 1957, Ward Bond specifically requested Wilson and Frank McGrath, another stunt performer, to be regulars on Wagon Train. Wilson played Bill Hawks, a former passenger who became a full-time employee and owner of one of the wagons. He was one of only two characters who stayed on the series for all eight seasons. He worked with all the other stars on the program, including Robert Horton, John McIntire, Robert Fuller, Denny Miller, and Michael Burns.
After Wagon Train, Wilson appeared in several other westerns, such as Custer, Hondo, The Shakiest Gun in the West, Dirty Dingus Magee, The Virginian, Support Your Local Gunfighter, Gunsmoke, Hec Ramsey, and Barnaby Jones. He also portrayed Biff Jenkins in the 1975 Walt Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain. His last acting role was as Norman Scroggs in a 1981 episode of The Dukes of Hazzard.
Personal Life and Death
Wilson was married to Mary Ann Wilson, with whom he had three children. He was a devout Christian and a member of the Hollywood Presbyterian Church. He enjoyed fishing, hunting, and golfing. He was also a collector of antique guns and western memorabilia.
Wilson died on March 30, 1999, at his mother’s house in Canoga Park, California. He was 75 years old. He died of congestive heart failure in bed, according to his wife. He was buried at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, California.
Terry Wilson was a versatile and talented actor who left a lasting impression on the fans of Wagon Train and other westerns. He was also a loyal friend and a devoted family man. He will be remembered as one of the icons of the golden age of television.