Dale Robertson, Star of TV Westerns, Dies at 89

Dale Robertson Headshot - P 2013
Getty Images

Dale Robertson Headshot - P 2013

The Oklahoma native toplined NBC’s “Tales of Wells Fargo” in the late 1950s and appeared in scores of other films and TV shows.

Dale Robertson, a veteran of movies and TV Westerns of the 1950s and ’60s who played “the left-handed gun” on NBC’s Tales of Wells Fargo, died Wednesday of lung cancer and pneumonia in a San Diego hospital. He was 89.

An Oklahoma native and member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame, Robertson also starred as gambler-turned-railroad tycoon Ben Calhoun in Iron Horse, which ran on ABC from 1966-68, and as the Texas billionaire title character in NBC’s 1987-88 adventure series J.J. Starbuck, from Stephen J. Cannell Productions.

The tall, handsome Robertson also had recurring roles on TV’s Dynasty, Dallas, Harts of the West and Death Valley Days, on which he followed Ronald Reagan and Robert Taylor as a narrator.

Robertson (who was right-handed) played Wells Fargo special agent Jim Hardie -- referred to as “the left-handed gun” -- in Tales of Wells Fargo, which was set in the 1870s and ’80s and aired on NBC from 1957-62. On the series, Hardie protected stagecoaches from outlaws and Indians, seeing them safely to their destination. He reportedly did his own stunts.

Born in Harrah, Okla., Robertson grew up around horses. He served in World War II, where he was twice wounded in combat and won bronze and silver stars. He also boxed professionally before movie scouts spotted his picture in a photography store and signed him up.

Robertson’s film credits included Fighting Man of the Plains (1949) with Randolph Scott, Call Mr. Mister (1951) with Dan Dailey, The Farmer Takes a Wife with Betty Grable (1953) and the Arctic-set Top of the World (1955).

Robertson used his Hollywood earnings to raise horses on the Haymaker Farms ranch that he built in Yukon, Okla., just west of Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Gazette reported that at one time, he owned 235 horses, and some of the mares had five world champions.

Robertson sold the ranch and horses years ago, and in May, his wife Susan, who survives him, presided over an auction that sold much of his memorabilia and belongings.