LOS ANGELES — John Hillerman, who played stuffed-shirt Higgins to Tom Selleck's freewheeling detective Thomas Magnum in the 1980s TV series "Magnum, P.I." has died, his nephew said Thursday. Hillerman was 84.
Hillerman, who had been in declining health, died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Houston, nephew Chris Tritico said.
Besides playing manager of the Hawaiian estate that Magnum used as home base, Hillerman was known for his 1970s roles as arrogant radio show detective Simon Brimmer on the "Ellery Queen" series and the difficult boss on the sitcom "One Day at a Time."
When Hillerman decided to retire about 17 years ago, the actor born in Denison, Texas, returned to his native state and was content leaving Hollywood behind, said his nephew. He remembered his uncle, an Air Force veteran, fondly.
"He had an outstanding sense of humor and was one of the most well-read people I ever met. You couldn't play Scrabble with him," Tritico said.
As for that quasi-British accent that Hillerman used on "Magnum" and elsewhere, his nephew said that was honed during several decades of playing varied roles on the New York stage before he turned to TV and movies.
Hillerman used something closer to his own voice in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles," playing Howard Johnson, one of the comic Western's many Johnsons. He appeared in a number of TV series, including "Valerie," ''The Love Boat" and "The Betty White Show," and in films including "The Last Picture Show" and "High Plains Drifter."
His last credits included 1996's "A Very Brady Sequel" and an early '90s appearance on "Murder, She Wrote."
The role of Higgins was his favorite, Tritico said.
"The reason he didn't take another big role is he refused to take a sitcom after 'Magnum,'" he said. "He wanted to continue doing the serious work that he felt 'Magnum' was."
Hillerman's survivors include a sister, Jo Ann Tritico, and seven nieces and nephews including Chris Tritico, a Houston attorney.
At his request no services will be held, Chris Tritico said.
If You Go
What: Santa Rosa’s Sesquicentennial Celebration
When: 3-10 p.m. Sept. 8
Where: Old Courthouse Square
Admission: Free, VIP $150
3 p.m.: Performance by Santa Rosa’s Dallas Caroline, former contestant on NBC’s “The Voice”
3-7 p.m.: Car show
3:15 – 6 p.m.: Third Street Cinemas presents "Santa Rosa: Chosen Place of all The Earth" and Santa Rosa historical stories told by Do Tell Story Swap
3:45 p.m.: Sonoma County Taiko Dancers
4:30 p.m. Mariachi Cantares de Tierra de Luther Burbank Center
5 p.m.: Time and Materials Band
5:30 p.m.: “Fashion Thru The Ages,” presented by Sonoma County Rural Cemetery
6 p.m.: Tyler Avery Lewis, Miss Sonoma County, performs the national anthem, followed by speeches from local leaders
6:45 p.m.: Birthday cake, toast and celebration
7:15 p.m.: Time capsule ceremony
7:30 p.m.: Redwood Empire Association Lion Dancers
8 p.m.: Screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 thriller “Shadow of a Doubt,” filmed in Santa Rosa