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DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley
Kelley at a 1988 Star Trek convention
Born Jackson DeForest Kelley
(1920-01-20)January 20, 1920
Georgia, U.S.
Died June 11, 1999(1999-06-11) (aged 79)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Stomach cancer
Resting place Cremated, ashes scattered in Pacific Ocean
Residence Los Angeles, California
Education Decatur Boys High
Occupation Actor
Years active 1947–1998
Home town Atlanta, Georgia
Spouse(s) Carolyn Dowling (1945–1999; his death)[1]

Jackson DeForest Kelley (January 20, 1920 – June 11, 1999) was an American actor, screenwriter, poet and singer known for his roles in Westerns and as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy of the USS Enterprise in the television and film series Star Trek.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Early roles 2.1
    • Star Trek 2.2
    • Later career 2.3
  • Death 3
  • Filmography 4
    • Film 4.1
    • Television 4.2
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Kelley was delivered by his uncle at his parents' home in Star Trek second season episode "Return to Tomorrow."

Star Trek

Kelley as Dr. McCoy

In 1956, years before being cast as Dr. McCoy, Kelley played a small supporting role as a medic in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit in which he utters the diagnosis "This man's dead, Captain" and "That man is dead" to Gregory Peck.[5] Kelley appeared as Lieutenant Commander James Dempsey in two episodes of the syndicated military drama The Silent Service, based on actual stories of the submarine section of the United States Navy. In 1962, he appeared in the Bonanza episode titled "The Decision", as a doctor sentenced to hang for the murder of a journalist. The judge in this episode was portrayed by John Hoyt, who later portrayed Dr. Phillip John Boyce, one of Leonard McCoy's predecessors, on the Star Trek pilot "The Cage". In 1963, he appeared in The Virginian episode "Man of Violence" as a "drinking" cavalry doctor with Leonard Nimoy as his patient. (Nimoy's character did not survive.) Perhaps not coincidentally, the episode was written by John D.F. Black, who went on to become a writer-producer on Star Trek. Just before Star Trek began filming, Kelley appeared as a doctor again, in the Laredo episode "The Sound of Terror".[6]

After refusing Roddenberry's 1964 offer to play Spock,[7] Kelley played Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy from 1966 to 1969 in Star Trek. He reprised the character in a voice-over role in Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973–74), and the first six Star Trek motion pictures (1979 to 1991). In one of the Star Trek comic books it was stated that Dr. McCoy's father had been a Baptist preacher, an idea that apparently came from Kelley's background. In 1987, he also had a cameo in "Encounter at Farpoint", the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as by-that-time Admiral Leonard McCoy, Starfleet Surgeon General Emeritus.[8] Several aspects of Kelley's background became part of McCoy's characterization, including his pronunciation of "nuclear" as "nucular".

Kelley became a good friend of Star Trek cast mates William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, from their first meeting in 1964. During Trek's first season, Kelley's name was listed in the end credits along with the rest of the cast. Only Shatner and Nimoy were listed in the opening credits. As Kelley's role grew in importance during the first season he received a pay raise to about $2,500 per episode, and received third billing starting in the second season after Nimoy. Despite the show's recognition of Kelley as one of its stars he was frustrated by the greater attention that Shatner received as its lead actor, and Nimoy received because of "Spockamania" among fans.

Shy by his own admission, Kelley was the only cast member of the original Star Trek series program never to have written or published an autobiography; however, the authorized biography From Sawdust to Stardust (2005) was written posthumously by Terry Lee Rioux of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Kelley regarded "The Empath" to be his favourite Star Trek television episode.[9]

Later career

After Star Trek, Kelley found himself a victim of the very typecasting he had so feared. In 1972, he was cast in the horror film Night of the Lepus. Kelley thereafter did a few television appearances and a couple of movies but essentially went into de facto retirement other than playing McCoy.[10] By 1978 he was earning up to $50,000 ($181,000 today) annually from appearances at Star Trek conventions.[11] Like other Star Trek actors, Kelley received little of the enormous profits that the franchise generated for Paramount, until Nimoy, as executive producer, helped arrange for Kelley to be paid $1 million for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) which would eventually be his final live action film appearance. He also appeared in the very first Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Encounter at Farpoint", in which he portrayed Dr. McCoy as 137 years old and still refusing to be transported.[3]

In a TLC interview done in the late 1990s, Kelley jokingly said one of his biggest fears was that the words etched on his gravestone would be "He's dead, Jim." Reflecting this, Kelley's obituary in Newsweek magazine began: "We're not even going to try to resist: He's dead, Jim."[12] On the other hand, he stated that he was very proud to hear from so many Star Trek fans who had been inspired to become doctors as a result of his portrayal of Dr. McCoy. For his final film, Kelley provided the voice of Viking 1 in the 2nd/3rd installment in the children's series The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars.

Later in life, Kelley developed an interest in poetry, eventually publishing the first of two books in a series, The Big Bird's Dream and The Dream Goes On – a series he would never finish.


Kelley died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1999 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California. His body was cremated and the ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.[13]





  1. ^ "Carolyn Dowling (1916 - 2004) - Genealogy". Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  2. ^ "DeForest Kelley (1920 - 1999)". June 30, 1999. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Lee Rioux, Terry (2005). From Sawdust to Stardust. Rocket Books. 
  4. ^ "The Star Trek Explorer – DeForest Kelley Obituary". 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  5. ^ "Excerpt The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit". 2008-04-22. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  6. ^ "The Sound of Terror" episode cast, Internet Movie Database
  7. ^, staff. "Star Trek Remembering DeForest Kelley". CBS Entertainment. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  8. ^ IMDB Star Trek The Next Generation Full Cast and Crew
  9. ^ "The Empath" Story outline report and script analysis by Dave Eversole
  10. ^ Marriott, Michael (September 15, 1991). "TV VIEW; THE 'STAR TREK' CURSE: A LIFETIME STARFLEET COMMISSION". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2011. 
  11. ^ Michaels, Marguerite (December 10, 1978). "A Visit to Star Trek's Movie Launch". Parade. Retrieved May 2, 2011. 
  12. ^ Newsweek, July 20, 1999
  13. ^ "DeForest Kelley (1920 - 1999) - Find A Grave Memorial". June 30, 1999. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 


  • Lee Rioux, Terry (2005). From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek's Dr. McCoy. Pocket Books.  

External links

Kelley also appeared in at least one Old Time Radio program. Guest starring on

For nine years, Kelley primarily played villains. He built up an impressive list of credits, alternating between television and motion pictures. However, he was afraid of typecasting, so he broke away from villains by starring in Where Love Has Gone and a television pilot called 333 Montgomery. The pilot was written by an ex-policeman named Gene Roddenberry, and a few years later Kelley would appear in another Roddenberry pilot, Police Story (1967), that was again not developed into a series.

Kelley also appeared in episodes of The Donna Reed Show, Perry Mason, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Boots and Saddles, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater, Death Valley Days, Riverboat, Lawman, Bat Masterson and Laredo. He appeared in the 1962 episode of Route 66, "1800 Days to Justice" and "The Clover Throne" as Willis. He had a small role in the movie The View from Pompey's Head.

Kelley's acting career began with the feature film Burt Lancaster's Wyatt Earp). This role was a source for three movie offers, including Warlock with Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn. In 1957, he had a small role as a Southern officer in Raintree County, a Civil War film directed by Edward Dmytryk, alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Lee Marvin. He also starred in the lead role as a U.S. Navy submarine captain in World War Two in The Silent Service. He appeared in both season 1, episode 5 "The Spearfish Delivers" as Commander Dempsey and in the first episode of season 2 "The Archerfish Spits Straight" as Lieutenant Commander Enright. Leonard Nimoy also appeared in two different episodes of the series at around the same time.

Kelley appeared three times on Star Trek episode titled "Spectre of the Gun", this time portraying Tom McLaury.

Early roles


During World War II, Kelley served as an enlisted man in the United States Army Air Forces between March 10, 1943, and January 28, 1946, assigned to the First Motion Picture Unit. After an extended stay in Long Beach, California, Kelley decided to pursue an acting career and relocate to southern California permanently, living for a time with his uncle Casey. He worked as an usher in a local theater in order to earn enough money for the move. Kelley's mother encouraged her son in his new career goal, but his father disliked the idea. While in California, Kelley was spotted by a Paramount Pictures scout while doing a United States Navy training film.[3]

[3] In 1934, the family left Conyers for


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