William Barton Yarborough (October 2, 1900 – December 19, 1951) was an American actor who worked extensively in radio drama, primarily on the NBC Radio Network. He is famous for his roles in the Carlton E. Morse productions I Love a Mystery, where he played Doc Long, and One Man's Family, where he spent 19 years portraying Clifford Barbour. In addition, Yarborough spent three years as Sgt. Ben Romero on Jack Webb's Dragnet.
William Barton Yarborough
October 2, 1900
Goldthwaite, Texas, U.S.
|Died||December 19, 1951 51) (aged|
Burbank, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Spouse(s)||Barbara Jo Allen (m. 19??; div. 1931)|
Janet Warren (m. 1949)
He was born in Goldthwaite, Texas. As a youth, Yarborough ran away from home, attracted by the vaudeville stages, and he first worked in radio during the 1920s. After joining a touring musical comedy show, he progressed from bit parts to leading man as the troupe played in various places in Oklahoma and Texas. He attended college at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Southern California, where in 1925 he became a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.
One of Yarborough's earliest reported activities in acting was in November 1922, when he was a member of the cast of a Rebekah and Odd Fellows lodges production of The Prince Chap in Reno, Nevada. He was active in dramatic productions at the University of California, including a one-act play on radio station KLX in 1924. His work on stage at UC ranged from drama (The Frogs) to farce (She Stoops to Conquer).
After graduating from the University of California in 1925, Yarborough acted in London, New York, and California, having the leading-man role in Outward Bound. He was a member of the Eva Le Gallienne Civic Repertoire in New York City. Yarborough's NBC radio debut was in 1930, broadcasting from San Francisco.
In 1932, Yarborough began a long run as Clifford Barbour on the radio serial One Man's Family,:260 continuing in the role throughout his life. Yarborough was probably best known for his roles as Doc Long in the West Coast cast of Carlton E. Morse's I Love a Mystery:160 (and the subsequent I Love Adventure):160 and Sergeant Ben Romero, Joe Friday's original partner, on Dragnet.:103
Yarborough's other radio work includes the title role in Hawk Larabee,:147 as well as the roles of Brazos John in Hawk Durango,:147 Sleepy Stevens in Hashknife Hartley,:146 Skip Turner in Adventures by Morse, also by Carlton E. Morse, and the title attorney's assistant in Attorney for the Defense.
Yarborough appeared as Doc Long in three feature films for Columbia Pictures, based on the radio series I Love a Mystery: I Love a Mystery in 1945, The Devil's Mask and The Unknown. Yarborough adopted a Southern accent for the Doc Long character, and would retain the dialect for Dragnet. (In private life Yarborough spoke without a trace of an accent, as evidenced in his motion picture appearances of the early 1940s.)
He started work on the Dragnet television series in 1951. However, the day after he filmed the second episode, he suffered a heart attack, and died four days later at age 51. After his death, his One Man's Family character was dropped without explanation while his death was worked into Dragnet by having Ben Romero also die of a heart attack in the episode "The Big Sorrow."
Yarborough married radio actress Barbara Jo Allen (later known professionally as Vera Vague). They had a daughter, Joan, and divorced shortly after in 1931. He married again in 1949, to Janet Warren.
Yarborough died in Burbank, California, at age 51. Dragnet was in production at the time, and the episode "The Big Sorrow" portrayed Joe Friday dealing with the sudden death of "Ben Romero", and being assigned a new partner.
- They Meet Again (1941) – Bob Webster
- Let's Go Collegiate (1941) – Coach Walsh
- The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) – Dr. Kettering
- Saboteur (1942) – First FBI Man at Mason's House (uncredited)
- I Love a Mystery (1945) – Doc Long
- Captain Tugboat Annie (1945) – Missouri Jones
- The Red Dragon (1945) – Joseph Bradish
- Idea Girl (1946) – Pete Barlow
- The Devil's Mask (1946) – Doc Long
- The Unknown (1946) – Doc Long
- Wife Wanted (1946) – Walter Desmond
- Kilroy Was Here (1947) – Prof. Thomas Shepherd
- Shed No Tears (1948) – 2nd Insurance Investigator (uncredited)
- The Babe Ruth Story (1948) – Doctor at Huggins Bedside (uncredited)
- Henry, the Rainmaker (1949) – The Reverend Bascom
- Deadline – U.S.A. (1952) – Male Secretary (uncredited) (final film role)
- DeLong, Thomas A. (1996). Radio Stars: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary of 953 Performers, 1920 through 1960. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-2834-2. p. 290.
- "Former U. of C. Scholar Wrote 'Ghost Ship'". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. September 30, 1930. p. 22. Retrieved April 3, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Former Nevada Student Passes". Reno Gazette-Journal. Nevada, Reno. December 22, 1951. p. 8. Retrieved April 3, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Earl F. Schoening, ed. (May 1952). "Alumni news item". The Signet, a magazine for members of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. XLIV (3): 195.
- "Odd Fellows Rehearse Play". Reno Gazette-Journal. Nevada, Reno. November 18, 1922. p. 3. Retrieved April 3, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "U.C. Students to Give Program over KLX Radio". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. October 20, 1924. p. 10. Retrieved April 3, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "U.C. to Present Grecian Drama". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. April 12, 1925. p. 53. Retrieved April 3, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "U.C. Players to Present Farce". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. April 7, 1925. p. 13. Retrieved April 3, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Soanes, Wood (August 30, 1927). "Curtain Calls". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. p. 19. Retrieved April 3, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "8 p.m." The San Bernardino County Sun. California, San Bernardino. April 27, 1932. p. 17. Retrieved April 3, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924–1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.