Childhood & Early Life
Hovis was born on February 20, 1936, in Wapato, Yakima County, Washington, and moved with his family to Houston, Texas, when he was young. He started acting at the age of 5, when he created a musical act with his older sister. During his early childhood, he sang alongside his sister, Joan Hovis, and later joined the quartet ‘The Mascots.’ This group played on Arthur Godfrey’s talent show ‘Talent Scouts’ in 1948.
After completing high school, Hovis joined the ‘University of Houston,’ Houston, Texas, and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Hovis performed as a singer in the nightclubs during the 1950s. He also worked with various groups such as ‘The Mascots’ and the ‘Bill Gannon Trio.’ Hovis was also a songwriter, and ‘Capitol Records’ offered him a contract for recording an album. His solo album, ‘My Heart Belongs to Only You,’ was released through the label. One of the popular songs from this album was ‘We Could Have Lots of Fun.’
Apart from singing, Hovis also performed with local theater groups. In 1959, he went to New York and worked in ‘Broadway’ productions such as ‘The Billy Barnes Revue’ (1959) and ‘From A to Z’ (1960).
He moved to California in 1963. He delivered stand-up comedy performances at local clubs. At the same time, he tried for roles in TV series. TV producer, actor, singer, and writer Andy Griffith’s manager gave Hovis the role of ‘Private Larry Gotschalk’ in the TV series ‘Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.’ This was his first noticeable TV work, and he appeared in 10 episodes of the series in 1964. He also appeared as ‘Gilly Walker’ in two episodes of ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’
Hovis was given a minor role in the pilot episode of ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ (1965). Later, an actor withdrew from the series, and Hovis got the regular role of the demolition man ‘Sergeant Andrew Carter.’ He appeared in all 166 episodes of the series, from 1965 to 1971. His character was a German POW and an expert on explosives.
Around the same time, he also wrote the screenplays of ‘Out Of Sight’ (1966) and ‘Rowan & Marin’s Laugh-In’ (1967). The latter, in which he also performed, was an ‘Emmy Award’-winning show. However, he did not receive any award, as his name was mistakenly omitted from the writing credits.
The series ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ was canceled in 1971. Subsequently, he appeared in other TV shows such as ‘The Doris Day Show,’ ‘Chico and the Man,’ ‘Adam - 12,’ and ‘Holmes and Yoyo.’ In the long-running comedy show ‘Alice,’ he played an American–Indian police detective. The role fit him because he was of partial Yakama Indian descent.
Hovis also appeared on the game show ‘Match Game.’ He later produced a game show named ‘Liar’s Club,’ on which he appeared as a panelist. He essayed the role of ‘Melvin P. Thorpe’ in the musical ‘Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ and toured with the play during the early 1980s. He also worked in ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.’ He produced and wrote the game show ‘So You Think You Got Troubles’ (1982), with ventriloquist Jay Johnson as its host.
Hovis appeared in a number of films, too, such as ‘Wild in the Sky’ (1972), ‘The New Daughters of Joshua Cabe’ (1976), ‘Sex and the Married Woman’ (1977), ‘Shadow Force’ (1993), ‘Lone Star State of Mind’ (2002), and ‘Yorick’ (2002).
He formed ‘Bernstein–Hovis Productions’ along with Gary Bernstein. Their company created game shows such as ‘Anything for Money,’ ‘Lingo,’ and ‘Yahtzee.’ The last one was based on the dice game of the same name. He appeared as a regular panelist on his game shows.
From 1990, he joined the ‘Southwest Texas State University’ (now, Texas State University – San Marcos) as a regular faculty and worked as a professor till his death. He taught acting and characterization at the ‘Department of Theatre and Dance’ of the university. He also performed in the stage productions of the university.
The ‘Texas State University’ has launched a scholarship in honor of Hovis.
Family & Personal Life
In 1955, Hovis married Ann Corrigan. The two were together till his wife died of cancer in 1995. They had four children, two sons, Michael and Paul, and two daughters, Kimberly and Deborah.
On September 9, 2003, Hovis died of esophageal cancer in Austin, Texas.