Don Pedro Colley, an actor born and raised in Klamath Falls and known for his roles in “The Duke of Hazzard” television and roles in movies like “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” died Oct. 11 following a long bout with cancer.
Along with creating memories through his film and TV roles, Colley is being remembered by Klamath Basin people who shared friendships with him.
“He had a lot of pals all over the country because they loved him,” said Gordon Ross, who knew Colley when they both lived in Burbank, Calif., and after both returned to the Klamath Basin. “He’d come over a for a meal. He’d drive a cab between movies,” Ross remembers of Colley and periods between acting jobs.
“It was fun to listen to him share stories about what happened on the sets,” Charlie McFarland said of hearing Colley talk about life in Hollywood. Noting they often had different views and had heated discussions, McFarland recalls, “But when it was over, we’d hug and slap each other on the back. He was probably one of the best friends I ever had.”
Colley, 79, was the son of Muriel and Pete Colley. Born Aug. 30, 1938, he attended Klamath Union High School, where he played football and track, specializing in field events.
He tried out for the 1960 Olympics in discus, but placed sixth. He attended the University of Oregon to study architecture, but left college in pursuit of an acting career after, according to friends, joining friends rehearsing for a play.
McFarland said Colley’s early friendship with George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame led to a role in Lucas’ first film, “THX 1138.” But Colley’s best known television and film roles include Gideon on “Daniel Boone,” Ongaro in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” SRT in “THX 1138,” Joshua in “The Legend of Nigger Charley” and, especially, Sheriff Little in the 1980s television series, “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Colley also appeared in several 1960s and 70s television westerns, including “The Wild, Wild West,” “Cimarron Strip,” “The Virginian,” “Nichols” and “Iron Horse.” During his career he made several guest appearances in many popular TV series episodes, including “ Adam 12,” “Night Gallery,” “Ironside,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Harry O,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Fantasy Island” and the “A-Team.”
Since returning to Klamath Falls several years ago, Colley had lived in the Rocky Point area.
In recent years, Colley was a frequent guest at film and television reunions, conventions and festivals, especially for “Dukes of Hazzard” events, signing autographs to earn money. Ross said Colley would often be photographed with the patrol car used in the TV series. His last major appearance was during “Cooter’s Last Stand 2017” held last July in Luray, Virginia, where he joined remaining “Dukes” cast members for the last Official Dukesfest event.
Kevin Lockett remembers seeing Colley in Safeway and telling him, “Hey, I saw you in ‘Starsky and Hutch.’ He said, ‘Yep!’ “ After that, Lockett says he heard stories about Colley’s filming days, especially on “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
As Lockett recalls, “He would always tell stories, things like how was on the set of ‘The Dukes of Hazzard.’ If you didn’t know he was in the shows you’d never know because he was so down to earth.”
Colley worked with Sam Dunlap, then the CEO at The Brockway Agency in Klamath Falls, doing voiceovers for commercials. “Boy, did he work hard,” Dunlap remembers. “He took direction well, even from the lowest person.” But Dunlap best regards Colley for meeting with him and his son, Nathan, about advice on pursuing a possible acting career.
Among Colley’s advice was to be prepared and “make a memorable performance” at auditions.
Nathan, now a freshman at Lane Community College, was recently selected to play the lead role in “The Birthday Party,” a Harold Pinter Play.
“He always good advice ... He was never above any of us,” Dunlap remembers.
“He was a really nice man,” Ross said of Colley.
Echoing those thoughts was Jim Owens, noting, “I found him to be very affable, certainly not pretentious.”
Colley is survived by his former partner, Roberta, daughter Kira Zuleka Zadow-Colley and two grandchildren.