John Hillerman was born in Denison, Texas, December 20, 1932. He was
the son of Christopher Benedict Hillerman, a gas station owner, and
Lenora Joan Hillerman. He attended St. Xavier's Academy in Denison,
and after graduation, he attended the University of Texas at Austin
for three years, majoring in journalism. An actor, he was best known
for his portrayal of the genteel sidekick, Jonathan Higgins in
Magnum, P.I.. He played the same character in three different
series: "Magnum, PI", "Simon & Simon", and "Murder, She Wrote".
From 1953 to 1957, Hillerman served in the Air Force, working in
maintenance in a B-36 wing of the Strategic Air Command, and
achieving the rank of sergeant He became interested in acting after
working with a theatrical group in Fort Worth during his service: "I
was bored with barracks life. I got into meet people in town.
After his discharge from the Air Force, he moved to New York City
to study at the American Theatre Wing, and performed in professional
theater for the next twelve years, in productions such as Henry IV,
Part 2 and The Great God Brown. Despite over 100 stage roles,
Hillerman was unable to make a living as a stage actor, and he moved
to Hollywood in 1969.
Hillerman made his film debut as a reporter in They Call Me
Mister Tibbs! in 1970. After that, director Peter Bogdanovich cast
Hillerman in his films The Last Picture Show, What's Up, Doc?, and
Paper Moon. Hillerman worked steadily thereafter in motion pictures
and television through the 1970s, including notable supporting roles
in the 1974 films Chinatown and Blazing Saddles. After being cast in
Magnum, P.I., he shot only four additional pictures between 1980 and
1996, with his final film performance coming in A Very Brady Sequel.
Hillerman earned five Golden Globe nominations, winning in 1981, and
four Emmy nominations, winning in 1987.
Hillerman retired from acting in 1999 and returned to his home
state of Texas. On November 9, 2017, he died of cardiovascular
disease at his Houston home, at the age of 84.