Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson

Foraker, Osage County, Oklahoma, USA
Death 8 Apr 1996 (aged 77)
Mesa, Maricopa County, Arizona, USA
Burial Pawhuska, Osage County, Oklahoma, USA
Plot Section 2, Row 12
Memorial ID 2252 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Actor. He is best remembered for his role of Sam the Lion in "The Last Picture Show" (1971), for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Born in Foraker, Oklahoma, his father, Ben Johnson, Senior, was a cattleman and rancher in Osage County, Oklahoma, as well as a champion rodeo steer roper. Naturally, young Ben would follow in the footsteps of his father, learning how to work a ranch and going on the rodeo circuit. Young Ben was soon a rodeo star in his own right. Both he and his father would earn Belt-Buckles together for rodeo team roping. In 1939, he made his first appearance in front of the camera, doing stunt work in the film, "The Fighting Gringo" (1939). In 1940, Producer Howard Hughes hired him to take a herd of horses to California, and to manage the horses upon arrival, for one of the films. As he considered the pay better in California, Ben decided to stick around (in Oklahoma he was paid $30 a month; Hughes paid him $300 a month). He worked for several years as a stunt man, horse wrangler and film double for such notable stars as John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. He played Cavalryman Travis Tyree in both of John Wayne's Cavalry movies, "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949) and "Rio Grande" (1950). His big break in acting occurred when director John Ford gave him the starring role in Wagon Master (1950). Johnson would go on to play supporting roles in such films as "Shane" (1953), "Major Dundee" (1965), "The Wild Bunch" (1969), and "Chisum" (1970). When offered the role of Sam in "The Last Picture Show" (1971) for which he would win an Oscar, he first turned it down because he didn't believe in swearing or in nudity in films. His friend, Director John Ford, got him to change his mind, but only after Ben got permission to rewrite all of his scenes with the offensive words removed. In 1982, Ben was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, as well as earning a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994. Ben continued to find steady work in films, between continuing his ranching back in Mesa, Arizona. He died at his home in Mesa, Arizona, of an apparent heart attack, at the age of 77.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

Family Members



In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees



How famous was Ben Johnson?

Current rating:

429 votes

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 2252
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Ben Johnson (13 Jun 1918–8 Apr 1996), Find a Grave Memorial no. 2252, citing Pawhuska City Cemetery, Pawhuska, Osage County, Oklahoma, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .