Ed Nelson, a New Orleans native who began his acting career in his hometown and went on to become a familiar face to American television audiences as a star of the prime-time soap opera “Peyton Place” and other shows, died Saturday in Greensboro, N.C. He was 85.
Asta Hansen, a daughter-in-law, confirmed the death to The New York Times.
Nelson’s early career included a stint at WDSU-TV, where he hosted children’s shows including “Tip Top Space Ship” and worked as a floor director and studio hand.
He worked at WDSU in its early days in the 1950s, after studying acting in New York. He also studied for two years prior to that at Tulane University before pursuing television and theater.
On “Peyton Place,” which ran from 1964 to 1969 on ABC, Nelson starred as Michael Rossi, a New York doctor who sets up practice in the fictional town of the show’s title and becomes caught up in its romantic storylines. According to The New York Times, the show was widely regarded as the first TV prime-time soap opera.
Nelson appeared in scores of other popular television shows, including many westerns popular in the 1950s and 1960s, such as “Have Gun — Will Travel,” “Bat Masterson,” “Gunsmoke,” “Rawhide” and “The Rifleman.” His career also included appearances in movies, including early low-budget horror and science fiction films.
Other television credits included “The Untouchables,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Fugitive,” “The F.B.I.,” “The Rockford Files” and “Quincy, M.E.”
He served in the Navy as a radioman on the light cruiser Dayton. In 1972 he completed his college degree at Tulane.
He was a founding member of the Krewe of Bacchus and returned to his hometown frequently over the years for theatrical and TV projects and charity work.
According to The Times, Nelson is survived by his wife of 63 years, the former Patricia Miller; four daughters, Cynthia Borders, Beth Moore, Mary Sanders and Ann Bochenski; two sons, Gregory and Christopher; 14 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.