Murphy Brown Great Charles Kimbrough Is Dead At 86

Jim in Phil's on Murphy Brown
(Image credit: CBS)

Charles Kimbrough has long been celebrated for his acting skills across a variety of mediums, from film to the stage to video games, with television arguably being where he made his biggest mark. Sadly, it's being reported that the Murphy Brown great is dead, with his son revealing he'd passed away earlier in 2023, at the age of 86.

John Kimbrough, the actor's son from his marriage to Mary Jane Wilson, confirmed the sitcom star's death with the New York Times, sharing that he'd died on Wednesday, January 11. The younger Kimbrough, who headed up the '90s alt-rock band Walt Mink, said he passed in Culver City, CA. A cause of death was not reported. 

As much as Murphy Brown was named after Candice Bergen's central journalist, the CBS sitcom was just as much about its talented ensemble cast, with Kimbrough's stoic and impossible-to-shake Jim Dial as the glue holding the chaos together for the fictional FYI series. He held the role with squinty-eyed aplomb for the entire decade of Murphy Brown's initial run, earning his lone Primetime Emmy nomination for the role in 1990.

Though he'd largely been retired from acting by the time CBS revived Murphy Brown for the 2018 Fall TV season, Kimbrough agreed to return to reprise the role of Jim Dial across three episodes, along with several other former co-stars. Unfortunately for anyone hoping Jim would continue his small-screen run, the network cancelled the show after a single season.

Take a moment to honor the actor with the music-infused video below from Murphy Brown's second season.

Jim Dial was hardly the entirety of Kimbrough's career and talents, of course. Born May 23, 1936, the St. Paul native made a name for himself in the 1960s and 1970s on the theatre stage, earning a 1971 Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in Stephen Sondheim's Company. He was also in the casts of many other Broadway and off-Broadway projects, from Candide to Sunday in the Park with George to The Merchant of Venice to Troilus and Cressida and then some. He'd most recently been showcased in the 2012 revival of Harvey.

Disney fanatics are no doubt used to hearing the actor, as Kimbrough voiced the role of Victor across the two Hunchback of Notre Dame films, as well as four video games, including two Kingdom Hearts releases. He also lent his voice to the features Buzz LIghtyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins and Recess: School's Out, and his voicework was also on display in episodes of Batman Beyond, Mighty Max, Pinky and the Brain, Dinosaurs, and The Angry Beavers

In the years just ahead of his retirement, Charles Kimbrough took on TV roles in Ally McBeal and The Zeta Project, with 2003's Marci X being his final film performance, coming after his appearance in 2001's The Wedding Planner

Charles Kimbrough is survived by his aforementioned only son John, as well as sister Linda Kimbrough, and stepdaughter Holly Howland, whose mother Beth Howland passed away in 2015 while still married to the actor. He's preceded in death by fellow Murphy Brown standouts Jay Thomas (Jerry Gold), who passed in 2017, and Pat Corley (Phil), who died in 2006.

We at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Charles Kimbrough during their time of mourning.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.