May 18

Pernell Roberts

May 18, 1928 - Waycross, Atlanta

As an actor, he was defined by two roles: the eldest of Ben Cartwright’s sons and the chief of medicine at a San Francisco hospital.

Pernell Roberts was born in Waycross in 1928. He attended Georgia Tech and the University of Maryland with a two-year stint in the Marines in between. Roberts made his stage debut in 1949 and worked throughout the 50s as a Shakespearean actor on stage and a character actor on television. He made his film debut in 1958.

When the western series Bonanza debuted in 1959, Roberts was cast as Adam Cartwright, the eldest and most educated of the three Cartwright sons. Roberts left after six seasons, at the height of the show’s popularity, hungry for meatier roles. He finally got one in 1979 on the hit show Trapper John, M.D. The Emmy-nominated actor was also a lifetime activist, fighting for equality on screen and off.

The man who helped make the Ponderosa famous was born in Waycross on May 18, 1928, Today in Georgia History.