The son of a circuit-riding Methodist preacher in rural Alabama, Pat Buttram became one of America’s best-known comic entertainers. He left Alabama a month before his 18th birthday to attend the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. An announcer from radio station WLS was on hand to interview members of the crowd and settled on Pat as a typical visitor from the South. The interview that followed was anything but typical. Pat made a hit with his hilarious observations on the fair and was immediately offered a job with the station. This led to a long and happy association with the popular “National Barn Dance” radio program. During those years Pat met Gene Autry, who took a liking to the young comic and later brought him to Hollywood to replace Smiley Burnette, who had found other work while Gene served in WWII. Together Pat and Gene made many western films and a television series, The Gene Autry Show (1950), which aired from 1950 until 1956. They remained close friends until Pat’s death in 1994.
In 1952 Pat married actress Sheila Ryan, whom he had met on the set of Mule Train (1950). Over the next 40 years Pat prospered in radio, films and television, making stand-up appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) (aka “The Ed Sullivan Show”) and lending his vocal talents to many animated television shows and films, including several Walt Disney features. In the early 1960s he revealed a flair for dramatic acting when Alfred Hitchcock tapped him for roles in two The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962) episodes. His big television break came in 1965 with the role of “Mr. Haney” in the long-running CBS comedy Green Acres (1965). Throughout his career Pat was in constant demand as a toastmaster and after-dinner speaker, where his agile and sophisticated wit belied his “countrified” appearance. In 1982 Pat founded the Golden Boot Awards to honor actors, directors, stunt people and other industry professionals who have made significant contributions to the western film genre. Proceeds from the annual event are donated to the Motion Picture Health and Welfare Fund.
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