The Austin Chronicle


By Robert Faires, September 19, 2003, Arts

In Memoriam: Larry Hovis

Larry Hovis, the nationally recognized actor who shared his knowledge and experience with hundreds of students at Texas State University-San Marcos, died Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Christopher House hospice in Austin, following a three-month battle with cancer of the esophagus. He was 67. Hovis was best known for his comic work on television in the Sixties and Seventies -- playing Sgt. Carter on Hogan's Heroes, appearing as a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., and doing numerous guest shots on sitcoms and game shows -- but in his 60-year career he also wrote songs, sang professionally, performed stand-up, penned screenplays, produced TV series, and acted onstage in dramas and musicals. Though born on a Yakima Indian reservation in Washington state, Hovis was at heart a Texan. His family moved to Houston when he was 3, and it was there that Hovis got his first stage training. At age 7, he was singing and dancing at fairs and on radio with his sister, and as a teen at Reagan High, he sang with the Mascots, a quartet that won a talent contest and appeared on The Arthur Godfrey Show. In the late Fifties, he performed in Houston nightclubs with the Bill Gannon Trio and on the stage of the Alley Theatre in several shows, including Seventeen, Make a Million, and Mr. Roberts, playing Ensign Pulver. After completing a degree in philosophy at the University of Houston, he was "discovered" by Capitol Records and recorded the album My Heart Belongs to Only You. In 1960, he moved to New York, where he appeared in The Billy Barnes Revue and a short-lived revue called From A to Z, starring Hermione Gingold and featuring sketches by Woody Allen. Three years later, he traded the East Coast for the West, and while performing stand-up at the Horn in Santa Monica, he was "discovered" by Andy Griffith's manager, Richard Linke. That led to a pair of appearances on The Andy Griffith Show, 10 appearances on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (as Pvt. Larry Gotschalk), and eventually to seven seasons on Hogan's Heroes as demolitions expert Carter. After Hogan's Heroes left the air in 1971, Hovis joined Laugh-In and began doing guest spots on other TV shows, writing for comics and variety shows, and producing game shows, among them Liar's Club. He played crusading TV reporter Melvin P. Thorpe in the first national tour of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1979. In 1989, while producing the show Totally Hidden Video for the then-new Fox network, a minor scandal for which he reportedly took the fall prompted him to leave TV for good. He returned to Texas, paying his parents a visit in Wimberley. That summer, Fred March, then chairman of the theatre department at Southwest Texas State University, invited Hovis to the university as a guest lecturer. Hovis accepted, and the response from the students was so positive that when he decided to stay in Central Texas, he joined the faculty full-time. During his 12 years in San Marcos, he developed the TV- and film-acting program and wrote, performed in, and directed many plays on campus. Ann Hovis, the actor's wife of 40 years, died of cancer in 1995. Larry Hovis is survived by his children, Kimberly, Deborah, Michael, and Paul Hovis. A scholarship fund in his name has been established at Texas State University. For information, write Carroll Wiley at

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