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Disney Legend Fess Parker Remembered

Thomas Smith

by , Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

Fess Parker, as Davy Crockett, receives a tribute window

Tonight, the Disney Parks family is mourning the loss of a legend — Fess Parker. In his role as Davy Crockett, Fess Parker not only helped promote and open Disneyland Park but he also became a hero to many of us, including Walt Disney Company President and CEO, Robert Iger.

“Like many kids growing up in the 50’s, Davy Crockett was my first hero, and I had the coonskin cap to prove it,” according to Iger. “Fess Parker’s unforgettable, exciting and admirable performance as this American icon has remained with me all these years, as it has for his millions of fans around the world. Fess is truly a Disney Legend, as is the heroic character he portrayed, and while he will certainly be missed, he will never be forgotten.”

Fess Parker was also a childhood hero to blog author and Walt Disney World photographer Gene Duncan. Gene shared a unique photo and touching story after learning of the news and we’re sharing it with you tonight — unedited.

Fess Parker with Former President Ronald Reagan

“I photographed Fess Parker at Disneyland during the 35th Anniversary press event. I photographed him at the train station, prior to the parade, mingling and shaking hands with those celebrities who had been a part of the opening of Disneyland- Milton Berle, Bob Cummings, Art Linkletter, Ronald Reagan and many more…..After the parade on Main Street, U.S.A., I spent the afternoon inside the office of Dick Nunis, President of Disney Parks, photographing various executives and others with Ronald Reagan. One of those was Fess Parker, who, for me, was a childhood hero. (I have a photo of myself wearing a coonskin cap)……

In 2004, I noted that Fess Parker and his son were to be present during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival- they owned a very successful winery inn the Santa Barbara area, and were slated to conduct a workshop at Epcot, as well as host a special dinner. I called out to Disneyland, where the 1990 negatives were archived, and asked for a couple of them to be scanned, which were then sent to me. I wondered whether Mr. Parker had ever seen the photos.

On October 1, 2004, I was assigned to photograph him, autographing wine bottles for guests. Just prior to doing that, I approached his son, introduced myself, and indicated that I had some prints for him to give his father. He waved to his dad and asked him to come over, which he did. I introduced myself, and he asked me to sit down with him in the workshop area. As he pulled the 8 x 10’s from the envelope, he became teary-eyed, and announced to me that he had never seen these images. We sat for nearly fifteen minutes, talking about all things Disney, Reagan and wine. His meaningful dialogue at the time involved his first encounter with Ronald Reagan. It seems that his very first screen audition ended the morning of, with Parker getting a call from the studio canceling his screen test, announcing that they had awarded the role ( don’t know which one ) – to Ronald Reagan.

As I photographed him later that evening, during the fantastic Fess Parker dinner, I observed a man truly bigger than life, lighting up a room when he appeared.

I am so sad…Gene.”


  • I am also one of the Boomers that grew up with Mr. Parker’s films as a kid. I loved them all. My parents took me to see all the Disney theatrical releases and I saw the rest in glorious black and white on Sunday afternoons. Still have my coonskin cap around here somewhere. Rest in Peace, Mr. Parker. My heartfelt condolences to your family and also my thanks to them for sharing you with us for all these years.

  • Fess Parker, a great American hero. I’m a bit young for the original airings of Davy Crockett but I sure remember his Daniel Boone. I’m real sorry to see him go.

    That picture of him with President Regan is just great.

  • Nothing like Davy versus Mike Fink. Fond memories of that ol’ black and white TV and Fess. He will be missed; an icon of my life. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.

  • He was a great man… Disney’s Adventures of Davy Crockett were a childhood memory for me…And though I never actually had the honor of knowing them in person, in a sense, Fess Parker and Walt Disney were two of my “Uncles” that were there while I grew up. This news makes me sad.

  • Gene, I have no idea if you will read this but I want you to know that I remember that day at Epcot. I always enjoyed participating in the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and only had a chance to do the event twice with dad. I will truly miss him. To all of the people out there that have left so many kind emails, phone calls, and recollections of watching their childhood hero on T.V. and the big screen, I want you to know that dad was always grateful for the opportunity given to him by Mr. Disney and the fans that were so supportive of his career.

    (Fess’ Son)

    • Hello Eli,
      It was a great pleasure meeting you and your dad, and I hope to see you again in the future, perhaps, at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Our sincere kind thoughts and best wishes to you and your entire family.

  • Mary from Santa Barbara, CA….
    It is so sad to hear of the lost of Fess Parker…Living in the same town he has lived for many years I have had to privilege to see him around Santa Barbara….He will live on in his movies… but he will be missed!

  • Fess Parker singing The Ballad of Davy Crockett is not all that rare. It got to #5 in May of 1955 and is available at CD Universe.

  • He will be missed!

  • I grew up on reruns of his shows and remember him most from The Great Locomotive Chase. Since I love trains, and history, that was a great movie for me. His performance really made the film. My kids are almost old enough to start watching his shows and movies, and they will be doing so.

    Rest in peace Fess. Prayers for your family.

  • I remember Fess Parker mainly as Daniel Boone and from an LP record of cowboy songs I used to play as a child.

  • Fess lived a good, full life with the honor of being loved both by his family and by millions. I became fascinated by the Davy Crockett phenomenon as an academic, but grew to love Fess’ performances in every film he did for Disney. He really seemed like a solid, upstanding guy and I’m glad for him that he had as many years as he did. Farewell Fess and Godspeed.

  • If any of you have the CD set titled 75 YEARS of DISNEY MAGIC and MUSIC, there is a rare recording of Fess Parker himself singing the DAVY CROCKETT themesong. I will be playing it today, and watching my DISNEY TREASURES CD’s of the ‘Crockett” series as well as DINEYLAND USA that has opening day footage of Fess and Buddy Ebson riding horses down Main Street! GoodBye Fess. See you at that big FRONTIERLAND SHOOTIN’ ARCADE in the sky.

  • I am heartbroken knowing that Fess is no longer on this earth with us. Even tho I was born after the Davy/Daniel years I saw them all growing and as an adult I’ve bought everything I can with him in it. My son’s and I all have coonskin hats and my oldest boy was Davy Crockett for halloween last year. We have benefited from the part of himself that Fess shared with us all. We will always remember him. but for now we are sad..
    Fess – you will NEVER be forgotten..ever..
    God Bless…

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