Kent McCray has died at age 89. The legendary Hollywood producer, who worked with the late Michael Landon on the beloved NBC dramas Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven, and Father Murphy, passed away in Los Angeles of natural causes, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Kent McCray first formed a friendship with Michael Landon in the early 1960s when they worked together on the actor’s breakout series, Bonanza. In 1974, Kent McCray was named associate producer for Little House on the Prairie, a two-hour pilot based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s famous books about an 1870s Minnesota farm family. The pilot was a hit and McCray produced the series for its entire nine-season run.
In the 1980s, the magical McCray-Landon team produced Father Murphy, starring Little House veteran Merlin Olsen. McCray closed out the 1980s as the producer of Highway to Heaven, a feel-good drama that featured Landon playing an angel. After Michael Landon’s early death from pancreatic cancer in 1991, McCray produced the NBC special Michael Landon: Memories With Laughter and Love in honor of his late friend.
Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls on the Little House on the Prairie series, issued a statement on the death of Kent McCray. Gilbert, who also starred in the Emmy-winning McCray-produced TV movie The Miracle Worker, said,
“I am so blessed to have spent my formative years both personally and professionally under the tutelage of Kent McCray. Kent was a masterful producer. His job was enormous and difficult, and he carried it out with effortless grace. Kent created an environment that allowed all of us who worked with him to grow, thrive and stretch beyond ourselves. He never viewed us as cast or crew, he saw us as family. He was fiercely loyal and deeply caring. He was also incredibly funny. His legacy will live on in me and all of us who were lucky enough to have known him.”
Gilbert also took to Twitter to write, “Goodbye Sweet friend.” The actress tagged several members of her Little House on the Prairie family.
Little House on the Prairie veteran Alison Arngrim, who famously played Walnut Grove troublemaker Nellie Olsen on the NBC period drama, posted a photo of McCray and Landon to Twitter and captioned it with, “Kent McCray and Michael Landon. Now together forever.”
Dean Butler, who played Laura Ingalls’ husband Almanzo James Wilder on the long-running series, told Variety in a statement that Kent McCray was more than a mentor. Butler said of the late Little House producer,
“He was a friend, he was a gentleman, a mentor, and a gifted producer who was always two steps ahead of the curve. His desk was always clean, his boards were perfect, and everyone had fun. While Kent’s career spanned more than 60 years, he told me that he never worked a day in his life. I believed him, and I will always be inspired by his memory.”
In addition to his work with Michael Landon, Kent McCray’s prolific resume includes production credits on Philip Marlowe, The High Chaparall, Barnaby Jones, and more.
Kent McCray is survived by his wife, Susan, as well as four children.
You can see Kent McCray talking about his friendship with Michael Landon in the video below.