Husband Stan Cadwallader
James Thurston Nabors (June 12, 1930 – November 30, 2017) was an American actor, singer, and comedian.
He was born and raised in Sylacauga, Alabama, but he moved to southern California because of his asthma. He was discovered by Andy Griffith while working at a Santa Monica nightclub, and he later joined The Andy Griffith Show as Gomer Pyle. The character proved popular, and Nabors was given his own spin-off show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Nabors was known for his portrayal of Gomer Pyle, although he became a popular guest on variety shows which showcased his rich baritone singing voice in the 1960s and 1970s, including two specials of his own in 1969 and 1974. He subsequently recorded numerous albums and singles, most of them containing romantic ballads.
Nabors was also known for singing "Back Home Again in Indiana" prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500, held annually over the Memorial Day weekend. He sang the unofficial Indiana anthem almost every year from 1972 to 2014, except for occasional absences due to illness or scheduling conflicts.
Nabors began vacationing in Hawaii in the 1960s, and in 1976, moved from Bel Air, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii. For 25 years, he owned a macadamia plantation on Maui before selling it to the National Tropical Botanical Garden, a conservationist organization, though he still retained farming rights to the land and owned a second home on the property.
Nabors married his partner of 38 years, Stan Cadwallader, at Seattle, Washington's Fairmont Olympic Hotel on January 15, 2013, a month after same-sex marriage became legal in Washington. They had met in the 1970s, when Cadwallader was a fireman in Honolulu, and began dating in 1975. Although he had been closeted before this, his sexual orientation was not completely secret; for instance, Nabors brought his then-boyfriend Cadwallader along to his Indy 500 performance in 1978.
A longstanding rumor maintains that Nabors "married" Rock Hudson in the early 1970s, shortly before Nabors began his relationship with Cadwallader. Not only was same-sex marriage not yet legal in any U.S. state at the time, at least publicly, the two were never more than friends. According to Hudson, the story originated with a group of "middle-aged homosexuals who live in Huntington Beach", who sent out joke invitations for their annual get-together. One year, the group invited its members to witness "the marriage of Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors", at which Hudson would take the surname of Nabors' most famous character, Gomer Pyle, becoming "Rock Pyle". The rumor was spread by those who failed to get the joke, and because Nabors was still closeted at the time and Hudson never publicly admitted to being gay (despite widespread suspicion that he was), the two never spoke to each other again.
Nabors died at his Honolulu, Hawaii, home on November 30, 2017, aged 87.
The United States Marine Corps released a statement on Nabors: "Semper Fi, Gomer Pyle. Rest in peace Jim Nabors, one of the few to ever be named an Honorary Marine." Second Lady of the United States and former First Lady of Indiana Karen Pence wrote a statement on Twitter: "So sad to hear about the passing of Jim Nabors. We heard him sing 'Back Home Again in Indiana' at the Indianapolis 500 countless times. We will miss his beautiful voice."
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Carol Burnett paid tribute to Nabors saying they were "close friends for 52 years. ... My heart is heavy. I’m grateful he was a large part of my life. I miss him. I love him." INDYCAR legend Tony Kanaan praised Nabors's performance of "Back Home Again in Indiana". Journalist Larry King praised Nabors as a "gentle man with immense talent" while sending condolences to his family.