Born on May 18, 1928, Pernell Roberts grew up in Waycross, Georgia, in a family of modest means. He attended Georgia Tech and the University of Maryland but did not graduate, served in the Marine Corps band, and then entered into the theater in 1950.
Roberts moved to Hollywood in 1957, working in a few movies before landing the role of Adam Cartwright in the hit television series "Bonanza" in 1959. He voluntarily left the show despite its popularity but continued to work in the television industry.
Among the complaints Roberts had with the show was that cast was mostly white and that the show's premise was unrealistic. He criticized the fact that three grown men still lived with their father and asked his permission about everything. Politically, Roberts was active in promoting his belief in equality for everyone.
He accepted the lead role in the CBS drama "Trapper John, M.D." in 1979, playing a doctor working in a San Francisco hospital years after returning from service in the Korean War. The show lasted until 1986. Roberts also hosted ABC's "FBI: The Untold Stories" in 1991. Altogether, he guest-starred in more than 60 series during his career.
Roberts was married four times and had one son, Chris, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1989. Roberts died of cancer at his Malibu home on Jan. 24, 2010, at the age of 81.