- Noble Willingham
Born Noble Henry Willingham, Jr.
August 31, 1931
Mineola, Wood County, Texas, USA
Died January 17, 2004(aged 72)
Palm Springs, Riverside County, California
Occupation Actor Years active 1970-2003 Political party Republican
Willingham had appeared in more than thirty feature films, including Harry's War (1981), Up Close and Personal (1996), City Slickers (1991), The Last Boy Scout (1991), City Slickers II (1994), Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), Chinatown (1974), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), The Distinguished Gentleman (1992), and Independence Day (1983). He was born in the small town of Mineola, in Wood County east of Dallas, Texas. After having graduated in 1953 from North Texas State University in Denton, he earned a master's degree in educational psychology from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Willingham was teaching high school government and economics in Houston before he followed his dream of becoming an actor. He auditioned for a part in The Last Picture Show (1971), which was filmed in Texas. He won the role, which led to another appearance -- Paper Moon (1973).
On television, Willingham had a recurring role in the ABC series Home Improvement with Tim Allen as John Binford, and appeared as a guest star in the 1975 CBS family drama series Three for the Road. He also guest starred on Murder, She Wrote, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1989), Northern Exposure, Rockford Files, Tucker's Witch with Tim Matheson and Catherine Hicks, and Quantum Leap. His additional television credits include A Woman with a Past, The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory, and Unconquered. He also played the conductor in Kenny Rogers as The Gambler (1980).
In 2000 Willingham was the Republican challenger in the northeast Texas 1st congressional district (Longview, Texarkana, Nacogdoches, Marshall, and Paris) against incumbent Democratic congressman Max Sandlin. Willingham ran a hard-hitting campaign and attacked Sandlin for bringing Bill Clinton to the district and for voting for the Democratic agenda in Congress. Sandlin fought back by citing various moderate votes he had cast and by winning the Chamber of Commerce endorsement. Using the power of incumbency to raise a large money advantage, Sandlin spent $1,147,002 to Willingham's $246,827. In a district that George W. Bush would easily carry with 64% of the vote, Sandlin held on with 118,157 votes (55.8%) to Willingham's 91,912 votes (43.4%) and carried nineteen counties in the district while losing only two, Nacogdoches and Willingham's home of Wood County. Four years later, Sandlin was defeated for re-election by Republican Louie Gohmert of Tyler.
He is survived by his children, Stori Willingham and John Ross McGlohen, and his grandson, Noble Willingham, III. On January 17, 2004, he died peacefully in his sleep of a heart attack in Palm Springs at the age of 72. He is buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.
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