James Noble (James Wilkes Noble)

James Noble

James Noble

James Noble, the actor best known for his role as the absent-minded governor on the hit 1980s sitcom “Benson,” died on Monday in Norwalk, Conn. He was 94.

Douglas Moser, a family spokesman, said Mr. Noble, who lived in Norwalk, had a stroke a few days before his death, in a hospital.

Mr. Noble was primarily known as a stage actor when he took the role of Eugene Gatling, the well-meaning but somewhat bumbling governor of an unnamed state on “Benson,” which appeared on ABC from 1979 to 1986.

The show starred Robert Guillaume, playing the same character he had played on the sitcom “Soap.” Benson was originally the governor’s “director of household affairs,” but over the course of the series he rose to state budget director and then to lieutenant governor.

The two men’s friendly if sometimes fraught working relationship was the focus of the series. After its original run ended it has been seen in syndication on the cable channels Nick at Nite and TV Land.

James Wilkes Noble was born in Dallas on March 5, 1922. He studied drama and engineering at Southern Methodist University but left to join the Navy during World War II. After the war he studied acting under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York.

Mr. Noble made his Broadway debut in 1949 in a production of the comedy “The Velvet Glove” and went on to appear in four more Broadway shows, including the musical “1776.” (He was also in the 1972 film version.)

His other movie and television work included the soap operas “One Life to Live” and “Another World” and played Bo Derek’s father in the hit 1979 film “10.”

Mr. Noble was married to the actress Carolyn Coates, whom he met when they were both appearing in a production of Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” She died in 2005. He is survived by his daughter, Jessica Katherine Noble Cowan.


  • March, 05, 1922
  • Dallas, Texas


  • March, 28, 2016
  • Norwalk, Connecticut

Cause of Death

  • stroke

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