He was the most famous marshal to come out of Dodge City. However, he wasn't real.


That marshal was Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke" who James Arness played in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.


James Aurness was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 26, 1923 to Rolf Cirkler Aurness, a medical supply salesman, and Ruth Duesler, a newspaper columnist.


Arness attended school in Minneapolis, graduating high school in 1942. Before he took up acting he served as a courier for a jewelry wholesaler and logged in Pierce, Idaho.


Arness served his country during World War II as a rifleman with the Army's Third Infantry Division. He was seriously wounded in 1944 at Anzio, Italy. In 1945, due to his injuries, the U.S. Army honorably discharged him. This was after he had received numerous decorations.


He began his career in show business as a radio announcer back in his home state of Minnesota in 1945. Being hit by wanderlust, Arness hitchhiked to Hollywood, where soon he landed a role in the film "The Farmer's Daughter" in 1947. During this time he dropped the "u" from his birth name "Aurness." In the early 1950's, he worked mostly in westerns, but he also starred in the Sci-Fi/Horror movies "The Thing from Another World" (where he was "The Thing") and "Them."


Arness was friends with actor John Wayne, whose recommendation got him the lead part of Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke," Arness's best known role. "Gunsmoke" was a number one show and was the longest running drama on TV for decades to come.


This show, which spanned three decades from 1955 to 1975, made the wild western town of Dodge City, Kansas famous worldwide.


After the show's cancellation in 1975, Arness continued to do made-for-TV "Gunsmoke" movies, as well as other TV shows. In Europe he became a cult figure for his character, Zeb Macahan in the TV mini-series "How the West was Won."


"James Arness: An Autobiography" was released in Sept. 2001 and is forwarded by Burt Reynolds, who played a character in "Gunsmoke." Reynolds' fame was later overshadowed by that gained from his numerous other roles.


Arness's younger brother was Peter Graves, famous for his many TV and movie roles.


Arness was married to Virginia Chapman from 1948 to 1960. They had three children. Craig and Jenny Lee preceded him in death. Rolf survives along with Virginia's son, who he adopted. In 1978, Arness married Janet Surtees.


This marriage lasted until Arness's passing in Los Angeles on June 3, 2011. He is interred in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.


James has a star on Hollywood's "Walk of Fame" as well as on the Walk of Fame here in Dodge City. He was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.


It cannot be overstated what James Arness and the series "Gunsmoke" did to advance Dodge City's image as a western frontier city across the world.


We all owe a debt of gratitude to this great actor for what he did to put our town on the map and to promote Dodge City, Kansas.