Noble Willingham

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) _ Noble Willingham, who worked steadily as a supporting actor over the last 30 years and left his role as a saloon owner on the series ``Walker, Texas Ranger'' to run for Congress, died Saturday. He was 72.

Willingham died at his Palm Springs home, his manager, Sandy Josephs, said Tuesday. He died of natural causes, according to the Riverside County coroner's office.

He played barkeep C.D. Parker on ``Walker, Texas Ranger'' from 1993-99. His character was a former Texas Ranger who provided advice on cases to Ranger Cordell Walker, played by series star Chuck Norris.

Willingham was the 2000 Republican nominee for a congressional seat in eastern Texas, but lost to Democrat Max Sandlin.

Willingham's ``distinctive voice and warmly gruff manner'' helped him bring authority figures to life, Josephs said.

He was among the local Texans hired when ``The Last Picture Show'' (1971) was filmed on location by director Peter Bogdanovich. His other film credits included ``Paper Moon'' (1973); ``Chinatown'' (1974); ``Good Morning, Vietnam'' (1987); City Slickers'' (1991); ``Ace Ventura: Pet Detective'' (1994) and ``Up Close and Personal'' (1996).

A native of Mineola, Texas, Willingham pursued his dream of acting after earning a master's degree at Baylor University and working as a teacher.

He returned to acting after his failed congressional campaign, filming ``Blind Horizon'' with star Val Kilmer in 2002. The movie is scheduled to be released this year.