Strange Fresno

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Statue of Festus

Ken Curtis
July 2, 1916 - April 28th, 1991

A life sized statue of Ken Curtis, as the beloved character Deputy Festus Haggen from the televison series “Gunsmoke,” greets people as they walk past the Educational Employees Credit Union on the West side of Pollasky Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets.

Ken Curtis, a singer and actor was best known for playing the scruffy deputy Festus on the television series “Gunsmoke.”

Ken Curtis, whose real name was Curtis Gates, was born in Lamar, Colorado.  He made his debut in show business in the 1930’s as a singer with swing bands.  After he recorded “Tumbling Tumbleweed,” Columbia Pictures signed him as a singing cowboy.  He then joined the western singing group Sons of the Pioneers, which included Roy Rogers.

Mr. Curtis appeared in “The Searchers” and “The Quite Man,” both films stared John Wayne.  Other films in which Mr. Curtis appeared include “The Alamo,” “How the West Was Won,” “Mr. Roberts,”  “Cheyenne Autumn,” and many more.  Ken Curtis appeared the television series “Rawhide,” “Perry Mason,” “Have Gun, Will Travel,” and other popular programs. Ken Curtis will be best remembered as the seedy, unwashed, squinty-eyed Festus Haggen on the western television series Gunsmoke.

In 1980, Ken Curtis and his wife Torrie moved to the Clovis area. He passed away on April 28, 1991 of natural causes. On the Saturday before his death, Mr. Curtis attended the Clovis Rodeo. The body of Ken Curtis was cremated and the ashes were scattered in the Colorado flatlands.

Visit The Ken Curtis Appreciation Site for more information.

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