james arness 2 'Gunsmoke's' James Arness (aka Marshal Matt Dillon) dead at 88Actor James Arness, who played the gunslinging marshal Matt Dillon on TV’s “Gunsmoke” is dead at 88. According to the Los Angeles Times, the actor died of natural causes.

The death comes just a year after Arness’ equally famous brother, “Mission: Impossible’s” Peter Graves, died of a heart attack.

The 6′-7″ inch Arness played the straight-shooting law man on TV for 20 years until the show was canceled in 1975. He reprised the role in four made-for-television movies and then went on to star in the mini-series “How the West Was Won.”

Arness was born in Minnesota in 1923 and served in the Army and worked as a radio announcer before pal John Wayne helped him land the “Gunsmoke” role. He is survived by his wife, three sons and three grandchildren.

A message on Arness’ official website asks that donations be made in his name to United Cerebral Palsy, a cause he vigorously supported.

Posted by:Liz Kelly Nelson