How Do We Remember John Hillerman, The Long-Time Sidekick Of Tom Selleck In ‘Magnum P.I.’

Many of us who experienced the 1980s will surely remember a well-known TV series Magnum P.I. and are familiar with a stuffed-shirt and a British Army veteran, Jonathan Higgins. On Thursday, John Hillerman, the actor who played Higgins in the series, passed away at the age of 84. Here are some of the memories we remember about him.

In Magnum P.I., which aired for eight consecutive years, Jonathan Higgins is the estate manager of Robin Masters’ beachfront estate in Oahu, Hawaii. The house was known as Robin’s Nest and the base of the Tom Magnum’s private investigation firm. Tom Magnum lived in the guest house of the estate and he only took cases that suited him.

In taking care of the estate, Jonathan Higgins is known for his attention to details, a complete opposite of Tom Magnum. Higgins always patrolled the estate with his two large-sized Doberman Pinschers named Zeus and Apollo. His rigid British style always contradicted Tom Magnum’s easygoing and free spirit in solving cases, This unique combination became the main attraction of the series.

With his background in theater, John Hillerman was able to develop his character as Jonathan Higgins to become so memorable. His British accent and appearance left a stunning impression on the viewers.

Together with Tom Selleck and two other cast members, Roger Mosley as TC and Larry Manetti as Rick Wright, Magnum P.I. was remembered as one of the great TV series in the 1980s. The series won the Hero Award at the 7th Annual TV Land Awards in 2009. Selleck, Mosley, and Manetti came on stage without John Hillerman to receive the award.

Magnum P.I. casts on stage to accept the Hero Award in 2009 TV Land Award.
"Magnum P.I" actors Larry Manetti, Tom Selleck, and Roger E. Mosley accept the Hero Award at the 7th Annual TV Land Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre on April 19, 2009, in Universal City, California. [Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]

Surprisingly, John Hillerman is not British. He is a native of Texas and spent four years of military service in the U.S. Air Force as a maintenance officer at the Strategic Air Command.

He began his acting career in 1957, joining a theater production company on Broadway. Later on, John Hillerman started his movie and television career in 1970 in They Call Me Mister Tibbs! to play as a reporter. Throughout his life, John Hillerman always learned to better himself.

His nephew, Chris Tritico, remembered John Hillerman as one of the most knowledgeable people he ever met. On top of that, he has a remarkable sense of humor.

“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 also said that his uncle’s experience in Broadway for more than 10 years have garnered his ability to speak in an almost perfect British accent. His iconic role as Jonathan Higgins in Magnum P.I. is so memorable that John Hillerman also played Higgins in the crossover series Simon & Simon and Murder, She Wrote.

Watch a collection of footage from John Hillerman in Magnum P.I. below. The footage depicts his most memorable quote “Oh, My God!” which he often said in the TV series.