Pernell Roberts – Bio, Spouse, Why Did He Leave Bonanza?
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Known as the bearded actor with the baritone voice, Pernell Roberts was a renowned vocalist and actor. He’s best recognized for his stellar performance in Bonanza – the western television series which aired from 1959 to 1965. The famed actor also featured in a good number of notable productions but his role on the set of Trapper John, M.D – a series which spanned between 1979 and 1986, took him to another level of fame.

Pernell’s fine baritone voice was put to good use in several musicals which include The Music Man, The King and I, Camelot, Kiss Me Kate, as well as The Sound of Music. He died in Malibu, California, in the USA, on the 24th of January 2010. The paragraphs below will tell you the story of his life.

Pernell Roberts – Bio

Pernell Roberts was born as the only offspring of Pernell Elven Roberts Sr – a Dr. Pepper’s salesperson and his mum’s name is Minnie Myrtle Morgan Roberts. He was born in 1922 in Waycross, Georgia, United States, and celebrates his birthday every 18th of May. He was named after his dad with the birth name of Pernell Elven Roberts, Jr.

During his years in high school, Pernell Roberts realized his natural passion for the performing arts when he took active parts in both school and church plays. He also came to the realization that he had genuine potentials for singing in high school. He performed at local ‘USO shows as a vocalist and also mastered how to play the horn.

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Pernell Roberts was at the Georgia Institute of Technology, also called Georgia Tech but he was not able to graduate. He joined the Military in 1946 and later served in the ‘US Marine Corps for a couple of years. Even during his years of service to his country, Pernell was never separated from his artistic prowess; he was really active in playing the tuba and the horn in the ‘Marine Corps Band. He also had a sound understanding of how the percussion and sousaphone musical instruments worked. The years he spent in college drew him nearer to his destiny as an artist. The emerging star, at the time, was also active in stage production while in school, he recorded 4 productions in all; notable among them are Antigone and Othello.


Pernell Roberts had his fair share of failed relationships during his lifetime. His relationship timeline captured four marriages and three divorces for the legendary performer. His first contact with matrimony was in 1951 when he tied the marital knot with his first wife Vera Mowry on the 4th of January. Vera earned a living at Washington State University as a professor of theatre history. She later taught at Hunter College and is also known as professor emerita of the doctorate program in theatre at the City University of New York. Pernell had his only child with Vera – a son named Jonathan Christopher “Chris” Roberts who was born in 1951. Eight years later, in 1959, Vera and Pernell’s marriage ended in a divorce.

His second marriage was with Judith Anna LeBrecque, the couple exchanged marital vows on the 15th of October 1962 but just like his first time, Pernell’s second marriage still hit the rocks barely nine years later in 1971. Judith joined him as a guest star in a 1979 episode of Trapper John, M.D. There is no record of any childbirth throughout the duration of their marriage. A year later, in 1972, Pernell Roberts got married to Kara Knack on the 19th of October but the marriage also ended in divorce in 1996.

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As at the time of his demise on the 24th of January 2010, Pernell still had Eleanor Criswell by his side as his fourth wife. They got married in 1999 and stayed together till death came calling.

Pernell’s only child Chris Roberts was a student of Franconia College but unfortunately, he met his untimely death in 1981, following a motorcycle accident.

Why Did He Leave Bonanza?

The reason behind Pernell Roberts’ exit from Bonanza was that he always disliked his assigned role. His aversion was not extended to the show itself, just the character he portrayed which was going in a way he did not like. He finally left over an argument with the show producers that the boys in the cast should be referred to as sons.

Though Pernell loved his colleagues on set and didn’t want to leave them, he blatantly refused to renew his contract with the belief that he could do better somewhere else. As at that time, money just wasn’t his top priority.