Pop Culture

'King of the Hill' voice actor dies at 67

NBC / Today
Dennis Burkley with Will Smith in an episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Actor Dennis Burkley, who voiced the middle-school principal on "King of the Hill" and played Fred Sanford's partner on a sequel to "Sanford and Son," has died at age 67.

Burkley died in his sleep Sunday in Sherman Oaks, Calif., his agent told The Hollywood Reporter.

His son Shawn told the magazine, "He was a great father as well as a great actor. He stayed with my mom in Hollywood where marriages don’t last very long. He cared deeply about his family."

Burkley, who was born in Los Angeles but raised in Texas, played the recurring character of Carl Moss, a high-school friend of Hank Hill and principal of Tom Landry Middle School, on Fox's long-running animated show "King of the Hill." The show ran from 1997 to 2010.

Burkley got his acting break in 1976 thanks to his other job -- cleaning pools.

"As luck would have it, one of the pools I cleaned belonged to director Bob Rafelson," Burkley wrote on his website. "Bob cast me in my first film, 'Stay Hungry,' along with another unknown, Arnold Schwarzenegger."

He went on to numerous parts on television and in film, but Burkley said his big break came when a role on "Maude" brought him to the attention of famed producer Norman Lear, who cast him in a recurring role as truck driver Mac on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman."

One of his most memorable roles was that of Fred Sanford's junk-business partner in the two-season sitcom "Sanford," NBC's 1980 attempt to revive the 1970s hit. Burkley played Cal Pettie, whose character essentially replaced Sanford's son Lamont after actor Demond Wilson chose not to reprise his role from the original show. "Sanford" never caught on as its predecessor had and was canceled before completing a second season.

The heavyset actor played Dozer, a biker who never speaks, in the 1985 film "Mask,"

In addition to "Sanford," Burkley appeared on numerous television shows, including "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Emergency," "The Rockford Files," "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "My Name Is Earl." One character he played on "Hill Street Blues," criminal Sonny Crockett, became more famous when the show's creator re-used the name for Don Johnson's unrelated role on "Miami Vice."

He made his directorial debut with 2005's "Repetition," an independent film about acting students. It was named a best feature film winner in that year's Appalachian Film Festival. He also taught acting classes.

Burkley is survived by his wife Laura and two children.