Jerry Van Dyke (July 27, 1931-January 5, 2018) was an American Actor and Comedian. He was best known to TV audiences as Coach Luther Van Damme on the ABC sitcom Coach for it's entire run (1989-1997). He appeared as a panelist during pilot week of the early 1990s revival of Match Game (his only appearance on game shows in general). He is the younger brother of actor Dick Van Dyke.
Born in Danville, Illinois to parents Loren (1900-1976) (nickname "Cookie") and Hazel Van Dyke (1896–1992). He is of Dutch descent on his father's side and of English and Scottish descent on his mother's side. His mother is a Mayflower descendant.
While attending Danville High School, Van Dyke pursued a career in stand-up comedy and was already a veteran of strip joints and nightclubs when he joined the United States Air Force Tops In Blue in 1954 and 1955. In the mid-1950s, Jerry worked at WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Jerry Van Dyke Show, which included future CBS News Early Show news anchor Joseph Benti, Nancee South, and Ben Falber, was popular fare. In the service he performed at military bases around the world, twice winning the All Air Force Talent Show.
Following a guest appearance alongside on his brother Dick Van Dyke on The Dick Van Dyke Show and two others on CBS's The Ed Sullivan Show, CBS made him a regular on The Judy Garland Show. He was also given hosting chores on the 1963 game show Picture This. In that same year, movie audiences saw him in supporting roles in the films McLintock!, Palm Springs Weekend and The Courtship of Eddie's Father.
In 1963, Van Dyke was cast on an episode of the CBS anthology series, GE True, hosted by Jack Webb. When The Judy Garland Show was unsuccessfully revamped, Jerry parted ways the program. He rejected the offer to play Gilligan on the classic CBS series Gilligan's Island, a role which went to Bob Denver. Van Dyke also rejected the offer to replace Don Knotts as Sheriff Andy Taylor's deputy on The Andy Griffith Show (also on CBS). He finally accepted the lead role of attorney David Crabtree in the short-lived sitcom, My Mother the Car in 1965, the misadventures of a man whose deceased mother Gladys (voiced by Ann Sothern) is reincarnated as a restored antique car. Even though the series was proven to be commercial failure, Van Dyke continued to work steadily in supporting television and film roles through the rest of the decade. In 1967, he starred in another short-lived situation comedy, Accidental Family, as widowed comedian Jerry Webster who buys a farm to raise his son while he is not away on professional tours.
He also was featured in the 1965 film Love and Kisses and co-starred alongside Andy Griffith in the 1969 film Angel in My Pocket.
During the 1970s, Van Dyke returned to his first passion: stand-up comedy. He spent much of the decade touring Playboy Clubs around the country and headlining venues in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, Summerfest in Milwaukee and in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He eventually returned to television in guest appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Love, American Style, and Fantasy Island, and roles in the movies The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon in 1976 and 13 Queens Boulevard in 1979.
In 1988, he made a guest appearance on the CBS sitcom Charles in Charge and the following year, he landed the TV role that would become his most notable work to sitcom audiences: assistant coach Luther Van Damme on the long-running sitcom Coach (debuting February 28, 1989 on ABC). Van Dyke played the beloved, yet befuddled assistant coach to Craig T. Nelson's tough-talking head coach Hayden Fox. Playing the character of Luther has earned Van Dyke four consecutive Emmy Award nominations (1990 through 1993) for "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series". Coach ran for nine seasons on ABC ending it's run on May 14, 1997.
Since the ending of Coach, Jerry has went on to make frequent television appearances and performing stand up comedy in major venues around the country. He also appeared in a series of commercial advertisements, in 1995, he appeared in a series of commercials for the fast food chain Hardee's, promoting the Big Hardee. From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, he acted as the spokesperson for Big Lots department stores. He landed a recurring role on the 2000s sitcom Yes, Dear as "Big Jimmy," the father of Jimmy Hughes (played by actor Mike O'Malley).
He appeared in a guest starring role during the second season of the ABC sitcom The Middle as Patricia Heaton's (her character Frankie) father, Tag Spence, followed by additional appearances in 2011, 2012, and 2013. He recently reprised his guest starring role of Tag Spence in April 2015, this time around alongside real-life brother Dick Van Dyke, as Tag Spence's brother.
Jerry has married twice. He was previously married to Carol Johnson from 1957 to 1974 and had three children: daughters Jerri Lynn and Kelly Jean and son Ronald. He has been married to his second wife Shirley Ann Jones since 1977 and they live on their 800-acre ranch near Malvern, Arkansas.
In 1991, his daughter Kelly Jean Van Dyke committed suicide following struggles with substance abuse.
Van Dyke is also an avid poker player and announced a number of poker tournaments for ESPN in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He is also a 4-string banjo player with several performances on The Dick Van Dyke Show to his credit.
On January 5, 2018, Jerry Van Dyke passed away at the age of 86 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His cause of death is yet to be determined but his health has been on a rapid decline since being involved in a car accident two years earlier. He is survived by his wife, Shirley, children Jerri Lynn and Ronald, and his brother and fellow actor Dick Van Dyke.