Herbert “Cowboy” Coward, Best Known for ‘Deliverance’ Dies at 85

Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward speaks onstage at the
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Herbert “Cowboy” Coward, best known as the toothless mountain man in the movie Deliverance, has died at the age of 85. He was killed in a car accident, along with his girlfriend Bertha Brooks, and two pets, a chihuahua and a squirrel. They were struck by a 16-year-old driving a pickup truck in North Carolina. The other driver was taken to the hospital and as of now, no charges have been filed.

Coward can thank the late Burt Reynolds for his acting career. They met in the early 1960s when Reynolds was working as a stuntman and Coward was playing a character named Pa Clanton at the Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. He had been working there for a while and received the nickname “Cowboy” after operating the bulldozers that built the Ghost Town.

He actually got his toothless smile while working there too, when he was hit in the mouth during a staged gunfight. He did a lot of other stunts and in addition to becoming friends with Reynolds, he met and became close with Bonzana‘s Dan Blocker, who often signed autographs at the park.

DELIVERANCE, Ned Beatty, Herbert Cowboy Coward, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, 1972

Everett Collection

Years later when Reynolds was in Hollywood, he thought of Coward for the role in 1972’s Deliverance. Reynolds once said, “He couldn’t read or write and he stuttered, but he was a wonderful actor.” In 2007, he appeared in Ghost Town: The Movie about the theme park and had a cameo in a Jody Medford music video with Deliverance banjo player Billy Redden. In the last few years, he lived a private life in the mountains.

Deliverance Ned Beatty, Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward, Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, 1972

Everett Collection

When asked about his time in Hollywood, he said, “It was just another episode to me. I was used to doing crazy stuff [for characters]. When I was at Ghost Town, I was in a gunfight every hour on the hour.” He remained close with Reynolds until his death in 2018 and added, “Burt said he didn’t have but three friends — real friends — and I was one of them because I never asked him for nothing.”

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