Tim McCoy

Timothy John Fitzgerald McCoy (April 10, 1891 – January 29, 1978) was an American actor, military officer, and expert on American Indian life and customs. He was also known Colonel T.J. McCoy.

Tim McCoy
McCoy in 1934
Born(1891-04-10)April 10, 1891
DiedJanuary 29, 1978(1978-01-29) (aged 86)
Other namesCol. T.J. McCoy
Col. Tim McCoy
Colonel Tim McCoy
OccupationActor, showman, television host
Years active1925–1965
Spouse(s)Alice Miller (19??-1931; divorced); 3 children
Inga Arvad (1946-1973; her death); 2 children)

Early years

The son of an Irish man who was a Union Civil War soldier and who later became police chief in Saginaw, Michigan he became a major film star most noted for his roles in Western films. He was so popular with youngsters as a cowboy star that he appeared on the cover of Wheaties cereal boxes.

He attended St. Ignatius College (now Loyola University), and after seeing a Wild West show there, left school and found work on a ranch in Wyoming. He became an expert horseman and roper and developed a knowledge of the ways and languages of the American Indian tribes in the area. He competed in numerous rodeos, then enlisted in the United States Army when America entered World War I.

Military career

McCoy was a soldier in the United States Army during World War I (although he did not serve in combat nor overseas)[1] and again in World War II in Europe, rising to the rank of colonel with the Army Air Corps and Army Air Forces. He also served the state of Wyoming as its adjutant general between the wars with the brevet rank of brigadier general. At 28, he was one of the youngest brigadier generals in the history of the U.S. Army.

McCoy was a renowned expert in Indian sign language and was named "High Eagle" by the Arapaho tribe of the Wind River reservation.

Acting career

Early career

In 1922, there were plans by David Townsend (art director), president of the Mountain Plains Enterprise Film Company, to build "Sunshine Studios" at Tim's Owl Creek Dude ranch in order to shoot a film titled, "The Dude Wrangler" written by Caroline Lockhart but the project was abandoned.[2]

That same year, he was asked by the head of Famous Players-Lasky, Jesse L. Lasky, to provide American Indian extras for the Western extravaganza, The Covered Wagon (1923). He brought hundreds of "his" Indians to the Utah location and served as technical advisor on the film. After the filming was completed, McCoy was asked to bring a much smaller group of Indians to Hollywood, for a stage presentation preceding each showing of the film.

McCoy's stage show was very popular, running eight months in Hollywood and several more months in London and Paris. McCoy returned to his Wyoming ranch, but Irving Thalberg of MGM soon signed him to a contract to star in a series of outdoor adventures and McCoy rose to stardom. His first MGM feature was War Paint (1926), featuring epic scenes of the Wind River Indians on horseback, staged by McCoy and director Woody Van Dyke. (Footage from War Paint was reused in many low-budget westerns, well into the 1950s.)

War Paint set the tone for future McCoy westerns, in that Indians were always portrayed sympathetically, and never as bloodthirsty savages. One notable McCoy feature for MGM was The Law of the Range (1928), in which he starred with Joan Crawford.

The coming of talking pictures, and the temporary inability to record sound outdoors, resulted in MGM terminating its Tim McCoy series and McCoy returning once more to his ranch. In 1929 he was summoned back to Hollywood personally by Carl Laemmle of Universal Pictures, who insisted that McCoy star in the first talking western serial, The Indians Are Coming. The serial was very successful. Later, in 1932, McCoy starred in Two Fisted Law with John Wayne and Walter Brennan.

McCoy worked steadily in movies until 1936, when he left Hollywood, first to tour with the Ringling Brothers Circus and then with his own "wild west" show. The show was not a success, reported to have lost $300,000, of which $100,000 was McCoy's own money. It folded in Washington, D.C., and the cowboy performers were each given $5 and McCoy's thanks. The Indians on the show were returned to their respective reservations by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

McCoy was available for pictures again in 1938, and low-budget producers (including Maurice Conn and Sam Katzman) engaged him at his standard salary of $4000 weekly, for eight films a year. In 1941 Buck Jones recruited McCoy to co-star in "The Rough Riders" series, alongside Jones and Raymond Hatton. The eight films, released by Monogram Pictures, were very popular, and might have continued but McCoy declined to renew his contract, opting to pursue other interests.

Interrupted by World War II

In 1942, McCoy ran for the Republican nomination for the open U.S. Senate Seat from Wyoming. During that campaign, he established the first statewide radio hookup in Wyoming broadcasting history. He lost in the primary and within 48 hours volunteered for active duty with the U.S. Army.

He had maintained his Army Reserve commission and was immediately accepted. McCoy spent the war in the U.S. Army and performed liaison work with the Army Air Forces in Europe, winning several decorations. He retired from the army, and according to lore, never lived in Wyoming again. His Eagle's Nest ranch was sold. He retired from films after the war, except for a few cameo appearances much later.

Television host

McCoy hosted a KTLA television show in Los Angeles in 1952, titled The Tim McCoy Show, for children on weekday afternoons and Saturdays, in which he provided authentic history lessons on the Old West and showed his old western movies. His co-host was the actor Iron Eyes Cody who, while of Italian lineage, played an American Indian both on and off screen. McCoy won a local Emmy but didn't attend to receive the award. He was competing against Webster Webfoot in the Best Children's Show category and refused to show up, saying "I'll be damned if I'm going to sit there and get beaten by a talking duck!"


For his contribution to the film industry, Col. Tim McCoy was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1973, McCoy was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. McCoy was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1974.

On January 16, 2010 McCoy was inducted into the Hot Springs County (Wyoming) Hall of Fame. He ranched in the county for over 30 years. Accepting the honor on his behalf was his son Terry. Included in the 2010 class were Governor Dave Freudenthal of the State of Wyoming, Chief Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court Bart Voigt, former Wyoming state treasurer Stan Smith, and local high school teacher Karl Allen.

Personal life

McCoy married Agnes Miller, the daughter of stage actor and producer Henry Miller and actress Bijou Heron. Their marriage resulted in three children: son Gerald, daughter Margarita, and son D'Arcy. They were divorced in 1931, and McCoy kept a portion of the ranch holdings in Hot Springs County, Wyoming. Agnes McCoy was rewarded with that portion known as the Eagles Nest.

His second marriage was to Inga Arvad in 1947.[3] They had two sons, Ronnie and Terry. McCoy was married to Arvad until her death from cancer in 1973. Arvad was a journalist from Denmark, investigated by the FBI in the early 1940s due to rumors that she was a Nazi spy; there were photographs of Arvad as a guest of Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Olympics, and she had twice interviewed him. This investigation included the wiretapping of Arvad during the time of an affair with John F. Kennedy in late 1941 into 1942. No evidence against Arvad was ever found.[4][5]

Later years

In 1973, Tim McCoy was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He also was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1976, he was interviewed at length by author James Horwitz for the cowboy memoir They Went Thataway. Tim McCoy's final, posthumous, appearance was in Hollywood (1980), Kevin Brownlow-David Gill's television history of silent films.

McCoy died in on January 29, 1978, at the Raymond W. Bliss Army Medical Center of Ft. Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona.[6] He was later cremated, and his ashes were returned to his Nogales home. Nine years later, his remains, and those of wife Inga, who had died in 1973, were returned to his birthplace at Saginaw, Michigan for burial there in the Mount Olivet Cemetery next to his family's plot.


Poster for The Fighting Fool (1932)
Lobby card for Daring Danger (1932)
Poster for Texas Cyclone (1932)
Poster for Bulldog Courage (1935)
1925The Thundering HerdBurn Hudnall
1926War PaintLt. Tim Marshall
1927Winners of the WildernessCol. O'Hara
CaliforniaCapt. Archibald Gillespie
The FrontiersmanJohn Dale
Foreign DevilsCapt. Robert Kelly
Spoilers of the WestLt. Lang
1928The Law of the RangeJim Lockhart
WyomingLt. Jack Colton
Riders of the DarkLt. Crane
The AdventurerJim McClellan
Beyond the SierrasThe Masked Stranger
The BushrangerEdward
1929Morgan's Last RaidCapt. Daniel Clairbourne
The Overland TelegraphCapt. Allen
Sioux BloodFlood
The Desert RiderJed Tyler
1930The Indians Are ComingJack Manning12 chapter serial
1931Heroes of the FlamesBob Darrow12 chapter serial
The One Way TrailTim Allen
Shotgun PassTim Walker
The Fighting MarshalTim Benton
1932The Fighting FoolSheriff Tim Collins
Texas Cyclone'Texas' Grant (Jim Rawlings)
The Riding TornadoTim Torrant
Two-Fisted LawTim Clark
Daring DangerTim Madigan
CorneredSheriff Tim Laramie
Fighting for JusticeTim Keene
The Western CodeTim Barrett
End of the TrailCaptain Tim Travers
1933Man of ActionTim Barlow
Silent MenTim Richards
The WhirlwindTim Reynolds
Rusty Rides AloneTim 'Rusty' Burke
Police Car 17Tim Conlon
Hold the PressTim Collins
StraightawayTim Dawson
1934Speed WingsTim
Voice in the NightTim Dale
Hell Bent for LovePolice Captain Tim Daley
A Man's GameTim Bradley
Beyond the LawTim Weston
The Prescott KidTim Hamlin
The WesternerTim Addison
1935Square ShooterTim Baxter
Law Beyond the RangeTim McDonald
The Revenge RiderTim O'Neil
Fighting ShadowsConstable Tim O'Hara
Justice of the RangeTim Condon
The Outlaw DeputyTim Mallory
Riding WildTim Malloy / Tex Ravelle
Man from GuntownTim Hanlon
Bulldog CourageSlim Braddock / Tim Braddock
1936Roarin' GunsTim Corwin
Border CaballeroTim Ross
Lightnin' Bill CarsonU. S. Marshal 'Lightnin' Bill Carson
Aces and Eights'Gentleman' Tim Madigan
The Lion's DenTim Barton
Ghost PatrolTim Caverly
The TraitorSergeant Tim Vallance, Texas Rangers
1938West of Rainbow's EndTim Hart
Code of the RangersTim Strong
Two Gun JusticeTim
Phantom RangerTim Hayes
Lightning Carson Rides Again'Lightning Bill' Carson, posing as Joseas Colonel Tim McCoy
Six-Gun TrailCaptain William 'Lightning Bill' Carson
1939Code of the Cactus'Lightning' Bill Carson posing as Miguel
Texas Wildcats'Lightning' Bill Carson
Outlaws' ParadiseCaptain William 'Lightning Bill' Carson / Trigger Mallory
Straight Shooter'Lightning' Bill Carson / Sam Brown
The Fighting RenegadeLightning Bill Carson aka El Puma
Trigger Fingers'Lightning' Bill Carson
1940Texas RenegadesSilent Tim Smith
Frontier Crusader'Trigger' Tim Rand
Gun CodeMarshal Tim Hammond, alias Tim Hays
Arizona Gang Busters'Trigger' Tim Rand
Riders of Black MountainMarshal Tim Donovan
1941Outlaws of the Rio GrandeMarshal Tim Barton
The Texas MarshalMarshal 'Trigger Tim' Rand
Arizona BoundMarshal Tim McCall, posing as 'Parson" McCall
The Gunman from BodieMarshal McCall
Forbidden TrailsMarshal Tim McCall, posing as Ace Porter
1942Below the BorderMarshal Tim McCall
Ghost Town LawMarshal Tim McCall
Down Texas WayU. S. Marshal Tim McCall
Riders of the WestMarshal Tim McCall
West of the Law Marshal Tim McCall
1952The Tim McCoy Show (TV)Himself
1956Around the World in 80 DaysColonel, U.S. Cavalryas Col. Tim McCoy
1957Run of the ArrowGen. Allenas Colonel Tim McCoy
1965Requiem for a GunfighterJudge Irving Short(final film role)


  1. McCoy, T. (1988). Tim McCoy Remembers the West. Bison Books. ISBN 0-8032-8155-2.
  2. Francis X. Bushman: A Biography and Filmography, by Richard J. Maturi, Mary Buckingham Maturi McFarland, 1998
  3. McCoy, T. (1988). Tim McCoy Remembers the West, p. 260
  4. Matthews, Chris (2011). Jack Kennedy, pp. 44, 45
  5. Hersh, Seymour (1997), The Dark Side of Camelot, p. 83
  6. "Movie star Tim McCoy dies of heart ailment". New Castle News. New Castle, Pennsylvania. UPI. January 31, 1978. Archived from the original on February 17, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  • Tim McCoy Remembers the West: An Autobiography by Tim McCoy and Ronald McCoy (1977)


ISBN 0-385-12798-7
ISBN 978-0-385-12798-1


ISBN 978-0-8032-8155-4


ISBN 978-0-9796970-0-5


  • Col. Tim McCoy's The Silent Language of the Plains! RoundTop Records, LLC. Thermopolis, Wyoming
ISBN 978-0-9796970-1-2
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