James Pritchett Remembered, Emmy-Winning Actor Was Born 92 Years Ago Today

Dr. Matt Powers can been seen running Hope Memorial (and smoking his pipe) weekdays on Retro TV.
During his 19 year run on NBC soap opera The Doctors (1963-1982), actor James Pritchett received critical praise, passionate fan support, and even a Daytime Emmy Award in 1978. His Dr. Matt Powers was Chief of Staff at Hope Memorial, the leader of a group of talented but flawed doctors, husband to Maggie, friend and confidant. Pritchett is now winning over a whole new generation of fans who are tuning in for The Doctors repeats on Retro TV, with episodes from 1968 currently airing weekdays from 12-1 p.m. ET. Two months of story is in the books and Matt is regularly sharing memorable moments with Maggie (Bethel Leslie), Althea (Elizabeth Hubbard), Nick (Gerald Gordon) and more.

Bethel Leslie and James Pritchett
James Turner Pritchett Jr. was born on October 27, 1922, in Lenoir, North Carolina. Today would have been his 92nd birthday.

The Lenoir native came to University of North Carolina in 1940, leaving his studies in 1942 to join the Army Air Forces during World War II. Pritchett continued his education at the University of Chicago, earning a bachelor’s degree in meteorology. He then completed his undergraduate degree at Carolina, following a family tradition that began with his father.

Pritchett went on to earn a law degree from Carolina in 1949, and worked for his father's practice in Lenoir for two years.

"I was not happy practicing law," he said. So while he handled corporate work for local savings and loans and furniture mills during the day, at night Pritchett’s quest for creative expression was realized at Hickory’s Little Theatre.

James Pritchett and Elizabeth Hubbard
Encouraged by local audiences and a yearning to perform, Pritchett wanted to learn more about the art of acting and returned to Carolina for a master’s in dramatic art. Before he finished his thesis, Pritchett worked in stock theaters across the country in Colorado, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

"I'd been acting since the sixth grade when I played Prince Charming. I decided to do what I liked best," he said.

He worked extensively in regional theater throughout his life, and appeared in numerous television commercials and film.

He met his wife Cynthia Arnold when they starred together in a 1955 production of "Guys and Dolls" at the Barn Theatre in her home state of Michigan.

He appeared on Broadway in "Two for the Seesaw" in 1959 and "Sail Away" in 1961- 62, and in national tours of "Auntie Mame" with Sylvia Sydney in 1958 and "Other People’s Money" with Tony Lo Bianco in 1991.

James Pritchett and Bethel Leslie
He also shared top billing with Geraldine Page and E.G. Mar­shall in Eugene O'Neill’s "De­sire Under the Elms," which played in 1956 at the Stude­baker Theater in Chicago.

He was a devoted family man, sharing with his family his zeal for travel, and love of nature and sports.

"We had three beautiful children, and he was a very, very good father," Cynthia Pritchett told MLive.com.

"His spare time was spent with his family," she added. "We had a great place out in the country and we spent all our extra time there, except when we were traveling, which we did a lot of, and we took our kids a good share of the time."

Before becoming the lead in The Doctors, Pritchett played roles in two other daytime drama. He starred as Jeff Nichols in The Secret Storm (1960-1961), then Bruce Elliott on As the World Turns. Bruce had an affair with Lisa (Eileen Fulton), who was very married to Dr. Bob Hughes (Don Hastings) at the time.

"The Doctors" novel was released in 1970
In the late '80s, Pritchett made appearances on All My Children and Guiding Light.

Pritchett died on March 15, 2011. He was 88.

A few weeks later, Pritchett's former The Doctors co-star Alec Baldwin paid tribute to the actor in a piece he wrote for Huffington Post.

"Pritchett played my father-in-law on the show," Badlwin said. "Soap operas are tough to act and tougher to write. How do you come up with something fresh and worthy every day? From Jim, I learned that, whatever the material, just listen and remember your cue. Jim, who in his youth bore an uncanny resemblance to Burt Reynolds, was a true gentleman. In 1997, I cast him in a film I produced called The Confession, with Sir Ben Kingsley. You'd be lucky if someone like Jim was the judge in your courtroom. He was a lovely and talented man."

Pritchett described his beloved TV doctor in a Carolina alumni magazine feature nearly 20 years after The Doctors went off the air.

"Matt Powers character was the salt of the earth, the straight arrow, the tent pole of the cast while all of this hanky-panky was going on around him."

* 5 Reasons to Watch 'The Doctors' on Retro TV

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