Gordon T. Dawson, Peckinpah Protégé and ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ Writer and Producer, Dies at 84

Gordon T. Dawson, who parlayed a stint as a costumer for Sam Peckinpah into a career as a writer and producer with credits including The Ballad of Cable Hogue, The Rockford Files, Bret Maverick and Walker, Texas Ranger, has died. He was 84.

Dawson died March 6 in West Hills Hospital of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his family announced.

A former firefighter, Dawson spent three months in a Columbia Pictures basement using a blowtorch, paraffin and glue to age the principal soldier uniforms for the Peckinpah-directed Major Dundee (1965). When the extras’ costumes did not match the ones Dawson had prepared, Peckinpah shut down production on the first day of shooting.

Dawson was summoned to the set in Mexico to age the other costumes, noting in the 1993 documentary Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron that he was “terrified” to meet the intimidating director. He needn’t have worried, though; Dawson fixed the other costumes, filming resumed, and a friendship was born.

Dawson was asked by Peckinpah to serve as wardrobe supervisor on The Wild Bunch (1969), but he hesitated because he had become a screenwriter. However, he did take the job and went on to collaborate with the filmmaker as a writer and associate producer on The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970); as an associate producer and second-unit director on The Getaway (1972) and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973); and as writer and associate producer on Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974).

He also showed up onscreen in The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett.

Born in Pasadena in 1938, Dawson did some acting as a child, then joined the U.S. Army at age 17 as a marksman and sharpshooter.

After an honorable discharge, he worked as a firefighter and then in the costume department on films including All the Young Men (1960), The Mountain Road (1960), Experiment in Terror (1962), Cat Ballou (1965) and Garner’s Hour of the Gun (1967) and on the 1965-66 NBC series Branded.

Dawson began his writing career in 1968 on ABC’s Cowboy in Africa, and he would also pen episodes of Bonanza, Black Sheep Squadron, Lou Grant, Sons of Thunder, Baywatch Nights, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Silk Stalkings and Diagnosis Murder.

He wrote nine installments of The Rockford Files from 1975-79 and was a writer and supervising producer on another James Garner NBC starrer, Bret Maverick, during its lone 1981-82 season.  

His last television series, as a writer, supervising producer and co-executive producer, was CBS’ Walker, Texas Ranger. He wrote 32 episodes of the Chuck Norris-led show during its 1993-2001 run.

In 2000, he was nominated for a WGA award for his work on the TNT telefilm Purgatory.

“He was the nicest person I ever met in the movie business,” said longtime friend and actor Chester Grimes.

Survivors include his son, Michael; daughter-in-law Kathleen; grandchildren Tyler and Ashley; and brothers Thomas and Peter. His wife, Jane, died in 2016.

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