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The Professor on Gilligans Island – Actor Russel Johnson – Dies of Kidney Failure

"Gilligan's Island: The Complete First Season" - Party
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images).

To some, he was the funniest part of the cast.  Johnson (on right) is seen pictured with Gilligan (Bob Denver) on the left and show creator and producer Sherwood Schwartz in 2004.

Russel Johnson, who most recently was living in Washington state, has died of kidney failure at age 89.  According to ABC News, his wife Constance confirmed that he passed away at 5:21 am this morning.   She said he died at home, in his sleep, peacefully.  She called him a very brave man who “knew what he wanted.”

Johnson, who appeared in various dramas and some episodes of the Bob Newhart show, was best known as the brilliant, sometimes slapstick professor on the legendary Gilligan’s Island series.  According to ABC News, Johnson had reflected on how different that show would be if it were filmed today:

“I’ve had people in the ensuing years say to ‘if they did ‘Gilligan’s Island’ today you’d all be living in the same tent,’” he told the Archive of American Television. “It’s true. That innocence was kept and it worked.”

Like a several of his show castmates (including Jonas Grumby, the Skipper,  Jim Backus-Mr Howell, and Bob Denver-Gilligan)  Johnson actually had a backround in serious theater and performance, and while not well-known nationally before the show,  was an acclaimed actor who could portray a variety of roles.   Like legendary comedic actor Leslie Nielsen,  this backround enabled them play the slapstick and hilarious scenes they brought to us in every episode of Gilligan’s Island.

One of our fondest memories is coming home from grade school, plunking down in front of our black-and-white tv, and watching Gilligan’s Island at 4p.m. every weekday.

He will be missed.  He also leaves behind a daughter, Kim.

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