A Tall Man's Tale

He was born Kevin Joseph Connors, on April 10, 1921, in Brooklyn, NY. The 6'5" Connors was educated at Seton Hall College. He began his career as a professional basketball player and switched to baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. In Hollywood he picked up occasional roles in films, and formally changed careers in 1953, after the success of "Pat & Mike", in which he appeared with Spencer Tracy and Kathryn Hepburn in 1952. He went on to make the films "Target Zero" in 1954, "Hold Back The Night" in 1956, and "The Big Country" in 1958. He became well-known in the television western series "The Rifleman", which ran from 1958 to 1963. He starred as Lucas McCain, a New Mexico homesteader bringing up a son by himself. Connors became far more marketable, however, after "The Rifleman". His films in the 1960's included the title role in "Geronimo" in 1962, "Flipper", and "Move Over, Darling" in 1963, "Synanon" in 1965, and "Ride Beyond Vengeance" in 1966. Connors also starred in the western series "Branded", which was telecast from 1965 to 1966. His role was that of Jason McCord, a West Pointer who was dismissed from service with the rank of captain because of supposed cowardice. Connors played a lawyer named John Egan in the short-lived 1963 tv series "Arrest & Trial", had a major role in "Cowboy In Africa" in 1967, and narrated fifty-two episodes of a syndicated documentary on stunts called "Thrill Seekers". Connors also appeared as Jeb Hollister in the short-lived, but critically acclaimed series "The Yellow Rose", telecast from 1983 to 1984. Connors once said, "I owe baseball all that I have and much of what I hope to have. Baseball made my entrance to the film industry immeasurably easier than I could have made it alone. To the greatest game in the world I shall be eternally in debt." He will best be remembered for the role of Lucas McCain, the granite-eyed cowpoke who shot from the hip with his Winchester repeating rifle and talking horse sense to his son, Mark. Lucas was one of tv's first single parents. His career was still flourishing when he died suddenly Nov. 10, 1992 of lung cancer. Married three times, Connors left behind four sons-Mike, Jeff, Steve, and Kevin. Johnny Crawford said, "He was just my hero. He was very expressive and always concerned, but he was also tough as nails."

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