Robert William “Dabbs” Greer
(April 2, 1917 – April 28, 2007)
This very familiar face has been seen in films and especially on TV for fifty years. This American actor was a sort of "everyman" in his roles and played merchants, preachers, businessmen, and other "pillars of the community" types as well as assorted villains. With his plain looking face and wavy hair he was a solid supporting actor. His distinctive, mellow, southern-accented voice fit well in shows featuring rustic characters, such as westerns. He also was portrayed on other shows as a minister, and is probably best remembered as the Reverend Robert Alden in NBC's Little House on the Prairie.
Dabbs was born in Fairview, Missouri (which is about 200 miles north and East of Anderson, Mo.), but he was reared in Anderson, Missouri. He was the only child of a pharmacist father, Randall Alexander Greer, and a speech therapist mother,
Bernice Irene. It is said that he got his stage name, "Dabbs", from his grandmother, who's maiden name was Dabbs.
His first acting experience was on stage in a children's theatre production when he was eight years old. He made his film debut as an extra in the 1938 film Jesse James, which was filmed mainly in Pineville, Missouri. "They were paying $5 a day – a day! – to local people for being extras. That was really good money in those days, more money than we had seen in a long time," Dabbs told the Neosho Daily News in 2002.
He attended Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, where he earned a BA. He was a member of Theta Kappa Nu, and headed the drama department and Little Theatre in Mountain Grove, Missouri, from 1940-43. He then moved on to the famed Pasadena Playhouse in California as actor, instructor and administrator from 1943-50. He made his film debut in Reign of Terror (1949) (aka "The Black Book") in an uncredited bit part and went on to appear in many parts during the next 50 years. Greer's last feature film was a prominent role as the 108-year-old version of the character played by Tom Hanks in 1999's The Green Mile – 61 years after Greer was an extra in the 1938 film Jesse James. Greer's last television performance was in a 2003 episode of Lizzie McGuire.
Dabbs played in many supporting roles, but was not a lead actor.
One quote attributed to him is
"Every character actor,
in their own little sphere,
is the lead."
And although Mr. Greer may not have played in big roles,
it's fair to say that he was pretty important.
After all, who else could have married
Rob & Laura Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"
Mr. & Mrs. Brady on "The Brady Bunch". :)
As a side note, in the pictures below, on the left, he is playing the role of the Army chaplain at Camp Crowder, in Neosho, Missouri, which is only approx. 15 minutes North of Anderson.
In 2007, at the age of 90, he died at Huntington Hospital after a losing battle with liver and heart disease. Greer never married and had no survivors. His resting place is Peace Valley Cemetery in Anderson, MO. Grandma’s Attic is located in Anderson, and we are proud to say that Dabbs Greer was raised here and is buried in a local cemetery.
The cemetery is approx. 2 miles from Grandma's Attic, if you happen to be in the area and would like to visit his resting place, we'd be more than happy to give you directions! You might also enjoy a visit to "Dabbs Greer Town Hole Park" just off Main Street in Anderson.
We have enjoyed researching the life of Mr. Greer, and we hope you enjoy reading about it as well!