Abel Fernandez, One of Eliot Ness' 'The Untouchables' on Television, Dies at 85

Courtesy of Photofest
Abel Fernandez as William Youngblood on 'The Untouchables'

The professional boxer-turned-actor starred as Prohibition agent William Youngfellow on the fact-based ABC drama.

Abel Fernandez, who played Native American federal agent William Youngfellow on the ultra-violent 1960s ABC series The Untouchables, has died. He was 85.

Fernandez, who was a crowd-pleasing professional boxer in Los Angeles before he turned to acting, died Tuesday of lung cancer in a hospital in Whittier, Calif., his daughter Letty told The Hollywood Reporter.

Fernandez portrayed Youngfellow, one of the Prohibition agents working for Eliot Ness (Robert Stack), in more than 80 episodes of the 1930s, Chicago-set Untouchables. The gritty crime series, from Desilu Productions, aired for four seasons, from 1959-63.

The Youngfellow character was based on William Jennings Gardner, a Native American member of the real-life Untouchables squad.

Born in Los Angeles on July 14, 1930, Fernandez attended Belmont High School and at age 16 enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he became a paratrooper with the Airborne 11th. While in the service, he captured the Asiatic Forces middleweight championship.

After his discharge in 1950, Fernandez won the Los Angeles Times Golden Gloves tournament and was runner-up at the national Golden Gloves event in Chicago. He boxed professionally as a light heavyweight through 1953, entertaining crowds at such venues as Hollywood Legion Stadium and the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, and was inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame in October 2013.

"I don't think I'd be much good as a fighter anymore," Fernandez told the Associated Press in August 1953. "I got to the point where I hated to hit guys. I was afraid I'd hurt them. I sent three boys to the hospital and spent most of my time visiting them. Fighters shouldn't care who they hit or how or where."

Fernandez made his acting debut in the 1953 film Second Chance in which his character, Rivera, engaged in a fierce boxing match under the blazing Mexican sun with star Robert Mitchum. In the 2001 book Robert Mitchum: "Baby I Don't Care," the star says Fernandez knocked him out three times during the filming of the scene.

And in the Humphrey Bogart boxing classic The Harder They Fall (1956), Fernandez played Chief Firebird, an Indian boxer who is hesitant to throw a fight.

Fernandez's film résumé also included Alaska Seas (1954) opposite Robert Ryan, Fort Yuma (1955), Pork Chop Hill (1959) with Gregory Peck, Apache Uprising (1965), Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966), Madigan (1968) and Quicksilver (1986).

Fernandez played Airman Abel Featherstone on the live-action NBC series Steve Canyon, based on the comic strip character, and guest-starred on other TV shows including Daniel Boone, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Bonanza, Time Tunnel, Gunsmoke, Batman, Wagon Train, The Virginian, Tales of Wells Fargo, Have Gun — Will Travel and Marcus Welby, M.D.

In addition to Letty, survivors include his other children Delia, Patrick and Tony, 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

A visitation will take place at 5 p.m. on May 16 at the Guerra-Gutierrez Mortuary in Whittier.