Van Williams, the hunky 1960s TV star from a founding Fort Worth family who played alongside Bruce Lee as the superhero The Green Hornet and guest-starred in a Batman episode, has died in a care center near his Arizona home, family members confirmed to news sources Monday.
Born Van Zandt Jarvis Williams, he was a descendant of Fort Worth pioneer Isaac Van Zandt and the founding Van Zandt and Jarvis ranching families, and was a distant cousin to late songwriter Townes Van Zandt.
He died of renal failure, according to The New York Times. He was 82.
Williams grew up on Locke Avenue near Merrick Street in west Fort Worth and starred at Arlington Heights High School as a speedy football halfback and track sprinter and hurdler. He went to Texas Christian University majoring in business and animal husbandry, according to one biography, but moved to Hawaii and was “discovered” on Waikiki by Oscar-winning movie producer Mike Todd.
In Hollywood, he avoided Western roles and starred as a detective, first in Bourbon Street Beat and then with Troy Donahue in Surfside 6. After his friend Adam West’s Batman became a TV hit, ABC cast Williams as the crimefighting Green Hornet opposite young sidekick Lee as Kato.
According to Tarrant Appraisal District records, the family’s Idaho-based trust still owns more than $1 million in ranch properties plus mineral rights in northwest Tarrant County.
According to the Times, he is survived by his wife, Vicki; their three daughters, Nina Fox, Tia Williams and Britt Willard; two daughters from an earlier marriage, Lisa Self and Lynne Newman; and several grandchildren.