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Dabbs Greer

Updated on June 2, 2016
julieann26 profile image

I'm a fan of classic TV shows and films. My articles focus on the character actors and actress who usually played supporting roles.

Bio Stats

Born: 2 April 1917 (Fairview, Missouri, USA)

Died: 28 April 2007 (Pasadena, California, USA)

Cause of Death: Renal failure and heart disease

Film and TV Appearances: 311+

Years Active: 1949 - 2003

Bonanza (1959-1973)

as Will Cass in the episode "Broken Ballad" (season 3)
as Will Cass in the episode "Broken Ballad" (season 3)

Early Life

Robert William Greer was born on 2 April 1917 to Randall Alexander and Bernice Dabbs Greer. The Greer family moved to Anderson, Missouri when Robert was an infant.

At the age of eight, Robert began his acting career in children's theatre. After graduating from Anderson High School, he went Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. During his time at university he appeared as an extra in the 1938 film, Jesse James which was being shot in nearby Pineville.

While he was in university, he also acted with the Springfield Little Theatre. In 1940, after earning a Bachelor of Arts in English degree he became the head of drama at Mountain Grove High School, where he taught until 1943.

After moving to Pasadena in 1943, Greer was employed by the Pasadena Playhouse. For eight years he worked as an actor, director (more than 50 plays), administrator, teacher and Dean of Academic Studies. He eventually left to pursue his own acting career.


Adopting his mother's maiden name Dabbs as his stage name, he made his official screen debut in an uncredited role in the 1949 film The Black Book as a bridge guard. A large number of his appearances during the 1950s were uncredited in nameless roles such as drivers, reporters and clerks. His final film was The Green Mile (1999) where he appeared as the older version of Tom Hanks' character Paul Edgecomb.

Some of the other films he appeared in were Trial Without Jury (1950); Father's Little Dividend (1951); Above and Beyond (1952); House of Wax (1953); The Desperado (1954); Seven Angry Men (1955); Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956); Chain of Evidence (1957); It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958); Edge of Eternity (1959); Showdown (1963); Roustabout (1964); Shenandoah (1965); The Cheyenne Social Club (1970); Rage (1972); White Lightning (1973); Evil Town (1977); Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981); Two Moon Junction (1988); Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989); Pacific Heights (1990); Little Giants (1994); and Con Air (1997).

Diagnosis Murder (1993-2002)

as Danny McNamara in the episode "Sins of the Father Part 1" (season 8)
as Danny McNamara in the episode "Sins of the Father Part 1" (season 8)


The majority of Greer's acting appearances was on television. After making his television debut in 1950, he appeared numerous times on many TV shows and had recurring roles on the following series...

  • How to Marry a Millionaire (1957) as Mr. Blandish - 3 episodes
  • Hank (1965-1966) as Coach Ossie Weiss - 20 episodes
  • The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1968-1970) as Norrie Coolidge - 6 episodes
  • Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983) as Reverend Robert Alden - 76 episodes
  • Picket Fences (1992-1996) as Reverend Henry Novotny - 20 episodes
  • Maybe It's Me (2001-2002) as Grandpa Fred Stage - 21 episodes

Made for television movies he appeared in were The Forest Ranger (1956); Unsolved (1960); The Fugitive (1963); Duncan Be Careful (1964); The Boy Who Stole the Elephant (1970); Winesburg, Ohio (1973); The Girl with Green Eyes (1977); Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (1983); Little House: The Last Farewell (1984); and Bonanza: The Next Generation (1988).

TV shows he guest starred on three or more times were Fireside Theatre; Cavalcade of America; Big Town; You are There; Frontier; Matinee Theatre; Science Fiction Theatre; TV Reader's Digest; Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre; Adventures of Superman; Trackdown; Wanted: Dead or Alive; The Loretta Young Show; Zane Grey Theater; The Rifleman; The Detectives; Laramie; The Untouchables; Rawhide; The Andy Griffith Show; Wagon Train; Lassie; The Dick Van Dyke Show; Perry Mason; The Fugitive; Judd for the Defense; Mannix; Bonanza; The F.B.I.; Ironside; and Gunsmoke (43 episodes).

Greer continued to appear on television until his final screen appearance in a 2003 episode of Lizzie McGuire.

Every character actor, in their own little sphere, is the lead.

— Dabbs Greer

In 1964, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Career Achievement from the Drury Alumni Association. He later received an honorary degree from Drury University in 1992.

Honours from his hometown of Anderson included naming a park after him (Dabbs Greer Town Hole Park) and holding "Dabbs Greer Days" starting in 2004.

Dabbs Greer died at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena in 2007. He is buried at the Peace Valley Cemetery in Anderson, Missouri. He never married and had no survivors.

Little House on the Prairie

Little House On The Prairie Season 6 Deluxe Remastered Edition [DVD]
Little House On The Prairie Season 6 Deluxe Remastered Edition [DVD]

Dabbs Greer appeared in 76 episodes of this television series. In season 6, he has a prominent role in one of the episodes where his character, Reverend Alden falls in love.



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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Thanks for the info. Great hub. Seen him thousands of times. Great actor. Shared.


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