Was once a soda-jerk at Schwab's drug store on Sunset Boulevard.
Attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, but did not graduate.
Attended the (now closed) Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri.
He was one of the first celebrities to frontline tours of Vietnam at the request of the State Department, Hugh once staged and directed a company of "Guys and Dolls" which toured Vietnam, Thailand and Japan for the troops.
The Hugh O'Brian Acting Awards Competition was developed in 1964 at the University of California, Los Angeles with cash awards going to acting talents.
Was awarded one of the space community's highest honors with the 1972 Freedom Award for his variety of space-oriented projects, including the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation seminars at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Once recorded an album of popular songs and sang on the Ed Sullivan, Dinah Shore and Jackie Gleason variety shows.
Hugh's vast investments over the years have been wise and fruitful with dividends paying well in stocks and bonds, real estate, bowling alleys, a building equipment firm, a theatre-in-the-round, an oil syndicate and his own television production company.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1992.
Hugh O'Brian and teacher Virginia Barber had dated for 18 years before their marriage on June 25, 2006, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. This was his first and only marriage; her second. She was 54; he was 81. The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, officiated, and the couple was serenaded by close friend Debbie Reynolds. Dubbed "A Wedding to Die For", the ceremony concluded with a cocktail reception.
Had played the last character killed on screen by John Wayne, in The Shootist (1976).
Elected Freshman Class president at Los Angeles City College.
He became the youngest drill instructor in the Marine Corps, and during his four years of service received a coveted Fleet appointment to the Naval Academy, which he declined. In 1972, O'Brian was awarded one of the nation's highest honors, the Freedom Through Knowledge Award, sponsored by the National Space Club in association with NASA. In 1974, he was awarded the George Washington Honor Medal, highest award of the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge, as well as the Globe and Anchor Award from the Marine Corps. In 1976, the Veterans of Foreign Wars also honored him with an award.
Broke into acting by happenstance. Dating an actress in Los Angeles at the time, he visited her at a couple of her rehearsals for a play. The director asked Hugh to step in after the leading man dropped out of the show. An Los Angeles Times reporter saw the production and gave Hugh excellent reviews.
Developed a friendship with Marilyn Monroe after the two co-starred in There's No Business Like Show Business (1954).
He was one of the few actors who has appeared in a Bruce Lee movie (Game of Death (1978)), a John Wayne movie (The Shootist (1976)) and an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie (Twins (1988)).
He was a guest at the 2012 Memphis Film Festival's "A Gathering of Guns 4: A TV Western Reunion" at the Whispering Woods Hotel and Conference Center in Olive Branch, Mississippi.
Had appeared with Julie Adams four films: The Lawless Breed (1952), The Man from the Alamo (1953), The Stand at Apache River (1953) and The Diamond Mercenaries (1976).
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6613 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Dedicated much of his life working for the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), a non-profit development program for high school scholars.
Hugh's paternal grandparents, Frederick Krampe and Wilhelmina Oldenburger, were German immigrants. Hugh's maternal grandfather, Leo Marks, was born in Ohio, to German Jewish parents, while Hugh's maternal grandmother, Mary Alice Luker, had deep roots in the United States, going back to the 1600s (she had English and Scottish ancestry).
He was a staunch Republican and conservative.
He was known to be a very private person.
Hugh O'Brian was one of the founders of the Thailans, a show-business charitable organization formed in 1955 to raise money for children with mental health problems. In 1964, he established the "Hugh O'Brian Acting Awards" competition at Westwood's University of California, Los Angeles.
Born Hugh Krampe in Rochester, N.Y., on April 19, 1925, Hugh enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 years of age in 1943 and was assigned as a drill instructor in San Diego. With hopes of becoming a lawyer, O'Brian was scheduled to begin attending Yale University on the G.I. Bill in the fall of 1947. He spent the spring and summer in Los Angeles, working to earn enough money to buy a car to drive east, including working at Schwab's Sunset Strip Drugstore as a ice-cream-soda-bar-jerk, but had an unexpected change of plans when the actress he was dating began rehearsals for the Somerset Maugham play "Home and Beauty" at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. "If I wanted to see her, I had to go to rehearsals," recalling in a 2009 Los Angeles Times interview. When the leading man didn't show up on the second or third night of rehearsals, O'Brian was asked to read the leading man's role. "After about four days, they realized the guy wasn't going to come back ... We did the show and a reporter for the L.A. Times came down to see it and the next day, he wrote a tremendous review... That's how I got started." The show's playbill, however, misspelled his name. "They left the 'm' out of Krampe," O'Brian said in a 2013 L.A.Times interview. "I decided right then I didn't want to go through life being known as 'Hugh Krape,' so I decided to take my mother's family name, 'O'Brien.' But they misspelled it as 'O'Brian' and I just decided to stay with that." A third-billed starring role as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic in the Ida Lupino-directed 1950 movie drama "Never Fear" marked what O'Brian, at age 25, later described as his "real beginning" as an actor. A contract with Universal Studios followed.
In what was described as "the wedding to die for," in June 2006, at age 81, O'Brian wed 54-year-old Virginia Barbara for the first time. He and his long-time girlfriend wed at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. "I said goodbye, early this Monday morning, (September 5, 2016), to my favorite cowboy," his wife wrote upon his death at 91 years of age, "I was one lucky cowgirl." O'Brian is survived by his wife Virginia, his brother, Don Krampe; and several nieces and nephews.
O'Brian's most enduring legacy is off-screen. More than 375,000 high school sophomores selected by their schools have gone through his "Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership" organization, which was founded "to inspire and develop our global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation." The non-profit organization grew out of an invitation to O'Brian from Dr. Albert Schweitzer to visit the medical missionary, a 1952 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, at his famed Africa hospital. O'Brian, at age 33, spent nine days working as a volunteer at the hospital on the banks of the Ogooue River in Gabon during the summer of 1958. For O'Brian, it was a life-changing experience. After dinner each evening, O'Brian and Schweitzer would spend hours talking. As O'Brian was getting ready to depart down river, he later recalled, Schweitzer took his hand and asked, "Hugh, what are you going to do with this?" On his flight back to the United States, O'Brian reflected on Schweitzer's comment that "the most important part of education is teaching young people to think for themselves".
Handsome, square-jawed and athletically fit, the dark-haired Hugh O'Brian appeared in a string of films and television anthology series in the years before he became a star portraying the real-life most celebrated peace officer and lawman of the Old West - "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," which ran on ABC Television from 1955-1961. Until "The life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" debuted in September 1955, most TV Westerns - "The Lone Ranger," "Hopalong Cassidy," the singing cowboys' series - were aimed at adolescent boys. "Wyatt Earp," on the other hand, was based on a real-life Western hero, and some of it's stories were authentic. The real Earp lived from 1848 to 1929. TV's first adult western, "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" became a top-20-rated television network (ABC) hit series until 1960, but it was canceled the following year after being supplanted by the avalanche of other adult Westerns. Critics quickly praised it making O'Brian a household name. Portraying what the show's theme song described as the "brave, courageous and bold" frontier lawman, O'Brian wore a black frock coat, a gold brocade vest, a string black tie and a flat-brimmed black hat - and he kept the peace with the help of a "Buntline Special"; a .45 revolver with an extra-long barrel. In portraying the sheriff Wyatt Earp, O'Brian at age 30, became known for his quick draw. "I didn't want to force the cinema photographer and the director into having to cut away whenever that happened; I wanted it to be realistic," O'Brian reported in a 2005 "EMMY Archive of American Television" interview. O'Brian spent hundreds of hours practicing the draw, the result of which, he said, "became a very big promotional tool ... and everybody talked about my quick draw." During the series' run, O'Brian separated from Earp. He did it by doing a lot of out-side acting - on anthology television series such as "Playhouse 90" and "Desilu Playhouse." O'Brian continued to work frequently in movies, television and theater through the 1990s, although he never again achieved the prominence he enjoyed as Wyatt Earp. A stint on Broadway, replacing the original star Andy Griffith for Griffith's one week vacation from the musical, (01/04/1960-to-01/10/1960) performing the lead role of "Destry" (at his age of 35) opposite Dolores Gray as "Frenchy" starring in the stage musical comedy "Destry Rides Again" (04/23/1959-06/18/1960; 472 performances). Opening on December 25, 1961 in an extremely short run, closing after 24 performances on January 13, 1962, O'Brian was the lead role performing as "Romain" in the Broadway play "First Love." Decades later, O'Brian showed up as Wyatt Earp in two 1989 television episodes of the TV western "Paradise." He also appeared as Earp in the 1991 Kenny Rogers TV miniseries "The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw." And he starred in "Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone," a 1994 TV movie that included flash-backs to scenes from his original filmed ABC television series. As O'Brian once said of the TV western that made him a star: "It's been a great horse, and she keeps coming around the corral." Among his post-"Wyatt Earp" film credits were "Come Fly With Me," "Africa - Texas Style," "The Shootist" and "Twins." He also starred in the 1972-73 NBC adventure series "Search," did more stage work and made guest appearances on television series such as Irwin Allen's "Fantasy Island" and Aaron Spelling's "The Love Boat".
He dated his wife for 18 years before they married.
At the time of his death, Hugh O'Brian was coming out of retirement to play one of the three leads in Old Soldiers along with Mickey Rooney and James Best.
While starring on TV as Wyatt Earp, O'Brian wagered $5,000 to any Hollywood actor that could beat his timed draw. No one ever beat him, and some did try. Once Audie Murphy called him out, but insisted that they use live ammunition. Hugh declined the offer.
While on a seven week USO tour in Vietnam in the 60's, he had a romantic relationship with Sandy Duncan, who was one of the women on the tour. They were performing the musical "Guys And Dolls". President Lyndon Johnson asked O'Brian if he would do the show for the troops after O'Brian performed the show at The White House.