Milburn Stone was an American television actor, a nephew of Broadway comedian Fred Stone and the son of a shopkeeper, best known for his role as “Doc” on the CBS western series Gunsmoke.
Stone was born in Burrton in Harvey County in central Kansas. He began his screen career in the 1930s, having been featured in Monogram Pictures’ series of “Tailspin Tommy” adventures. In 1940, he appeared with Marjorie Reynolds, Tristram Coffin, and I. Stanford Jolley in the comedy espionage film Chasing Trouble. Stone was signed by Universal Pictures in 1943 and became a familiar face in its features and serials. One of his film roles was a radio columnist in the Gloria Jean-Kirby Grant musical I’ll Remember April. He made such an impression in this film that Universal gave him a starring role in the 1945 serial The Master Key.
One of CBS Radio’s hit series, the western Gunsmoke, was adapted for television in 1955 and recast with experienced screen actors. Howard McNear, radio’s “Doc Adams,” was replaced by Milburn Stone, who gave the role a harder edge consistent with his screen portrayals. He stayed with Gunsmoke through its entire run and was often shown sparring in a friendly manner with costars Dennis Weaver and Ken Curtis, who played, respectively, Chester Goode and deputy Festus Haggen. His other co-stars were James Arness, Amanda Blake, Burt Reynolds, Glenn Strange, Buck Taylor and Roger Ewing.
A painting of the Doc Adams character was commissioned from Gary Hawk, a painter from Stone’s home state of Kansas. When then-President Ronald Reagan, a friend of Milburn Stone, heard about the painting, Gary Hawk was invited to the Oval Office to present the artwork to the President. Stone lived to see Reagan emerge as the likely Republican nominee for President in 1980 but not to witness Reagan’s election.