John Beasley, veteran actor from ‘Everwood’ and ‘The Soul Man,’ dies at 79

John Beasley, smiling, wears a striped shirt and a suit jacket
Actor John Beasley, known for “Everwood” and “The Soul Man,” died Tuesday after a sudden illness. He was 79.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision/AP)

John Beasley, known for his role in television shows including the WB’s “Everwood” and TV Land’s “The Soul Man,” has died. He was 79.

Beasley died Tuesday after a “brief and unexpected illness” at a hospital in his hometown of Omaha, Neb., his manager, Don Spradlin, confirmed.

Beasley’s earlier work includes portraying Terry Hall’s dad, Jesse, in the 1992 movie “The Mighty Ducks.” He also portrayed Chris Vaughn Sr., the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character, in the 2004 remake of “Walking Tall.”


Most prominently, Beasley is known for portraying the endearing bus driver Irv Harper on Greg Berlanti’s “Everwood” for four seasons. He also was a main cast member of “The Soul Man,” a sitcom in which he played Barton Moses Ballentine, the father of Cedric the Entertainer’s character, the Rev. Sherman Boyce.

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Beasley didn’t start acting until his mid-40s. Before that, he worked for the Union Pacific Railroad.

“I knew those things would come, even when I was in college,” he told American Theatre late last year. “I dropped out early because I didn’t feel I really needed a college degree to pursue what I wanted to do in life. Bottom line, I worked.”

Last year, Beasley played the older Noah Calhoun in the Broadway-bound musical theater adaptation of “The Notebook” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. James Garner played the role in the 2004 film based on Nicholas Sparks’ 1996 novel. Beasley considered playing Calhoun “the role of his life.”

“To be a working artist is the highest calling, and I appreciate wherever it takes me,” he told American Theatre. “If I never got to Broadway, I would still feel I’ve had a pretty successful career.”

Beasley has nearly 70 acting credits to his name. In 2002, he founded the John Beasley Theater & Workshop to promote live theater in Omaha. Most recently, he played small roles in Showtime’s drama “Your Honor,” starring Bryan Cranston, and a Star Wars franchise favorite, Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.”


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“Man … you know this is a part of life … but that doesn’t make it any easier,” Beasley’s son Mike wrote Tuesday in a Facebook tribute to his father. “I lost my best friend today. They say you shouldn’t ever meet your heroes because they don’t turn out to be who you thought they were. That is so wrong. My hero was my father. Thank you for everything. I hope I made you proud. Love you more.”

Michael Beasley is also an actor with an extensive list of credits. His most recent roles include Colonel Cheesesteak in “Shazam Fury of the Gods,” Uncle Calvin in Max’s “Rap S—” and Mr. Marksby in the Apple+ drama “Swagger.”

John Beasley is survived by Judy, his wife of 58 years; two sons, Michael and Tyrone; and six grandchildren, including Malik Beasley, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Earlier this month, “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Chris Pratt shared a courtside video from the Lakers game calling out John Beasley for something he had said decades ago.

“Yo Beasley, I’m looking at your grandson Malik right now, courtside, I remember when you told me on ‘Everwood’ when he was 4-years-old, ‘My grandson is gonna play in the NBA.’ Well look at this, there he is,” Pratt said turning the camera toward Malik who walks over in his Lakers uniform and says, “What’s up Grandpa, I love you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.