Tipping his cowboy hat and pulling up his boots as Luke Duke, Tom Wopat won the hearts of millions as the good ‘ol boy trying to outrun the law with his cousin in a 1969 orange Dodge Charger.
The ruggedly handsome man with his wavy brown hair and sparkling blue eyes was the perfect fit to play the rogue southerner in the TV series Dukes of Hazzard, one of the most popular shows of its time.
Wopat, who turned 72 on September 9, is still incredibly handsome and wowing fans with the same mischievous grin that wooed his audiences as Luke Duke almost 45 years ago.
Born in 1951, Tom Wopat started his career on TV with a small role on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. But soon after, he was cast in the action-comedy series Dukes of Hazzard, where he played Luke Duke, the rational older cousin to John Schneider’s Bo Duke, who had the “act now, think later” personality.
The hit show followed the lives of the Duke family–including Daisy and Uncle Jesse–as moonshine runners, who are often caught racing around in their muscle car nicknamed General Lee, trying to escape the corrupt Boss Hogg.
“You can never tell when something’s gonna pop. But some time in the first year, we just knew we had something amazing here,” Wopat told Fox News Digital. “The fans are unique in that they hand down their love for the show from generation to generation. I’ve met third and fourth-generation fans. It’s amazing. It’s a gift. The show will long outlive me, that’s for sure.”
After dazzling fans with his performance as Luke Duke, The Wisconsin-born Wopat shifted his focus from TV to musical theatre.
“Singing has always been my number one priority. Dukes was really kind of an aberration,” Wopat shared. “I never really aspired to do television. I put my focus on making records, doing live shows and being in the theater. But Dukes really was a ride.”
Wopat had leading roles in a handful of Broadway productions like Glengarry Glen Ross and A Catered Affair, and in 1999, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his stellar performance in Annie Get Your Gun, which also starred Cheryl Ladd and Susan Lucci.
For fans of Luke, his most memorable music can be heard on the Dukes of Hazzard soundtrack, where he performs the song “Up on Cripple Creek,” written by Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist for Bob Dylan in the 1960s.
In 2017, Wopat was up a different creek.
According to TMZ, charges were filed against the actor for getting “handsy” with a 16-year-old actress on the set of the musical 42nd Street.
TMZ also reports the actor allegedly said a few inappropriate words to his underage co-star, and though she ignored him, he persisted, resulting in a situation that made her uncomfortable.
Page Six writes that during the investigation, police searched his vehicle and found two bags of cocaine, leading Wopat to reveal that he buys cocaine “in large quantities and uses it over time.”
The next year, the star pleaded guilty to “two counts of annoying and accosting a person of the opposite sex” while rehearsing 42nd Street at Waltham’s Reagle Music Theatre in Massachusetts.
Wopat, 66 at the time, was sentenced to a year of probation.
Afterward, Wopat released a statement where he expressed “his deepest regrets to friends, family, and his many loyal fans” for the “unfortunate events” and said he hopes his “good name will be restored.”
In the spring of 2023, the actor, who’s on the other side of the law with his role as sheriff in the County Line film series, released his album “Simple Man,” which features songs like “Leave It Like It Is,” “Frozen Man,” and more.
The husband and father of five described the music as “an Americana album” that blends “a couple of ballads, some blues and some Broadway tunes.”
On September 9, celebrating his 72nd birthday, the actor shared images at different stages of his life. The first is the younger man with gorgeous wavy dark hair, then middle-aged, where he’s seen with General Lee, and the last shows him today, his gray hair capped with a cowboy hat.
Fans jumped in with wishes, many adoring him as Luke. “happy birthday tom aka luke duke yee haa keep it between the ditches,” writes one while a second shares, “Have a great day Tom! unforgettable and loved Luke Duke!”
A third writes, “Happy Birthday Tom Wopat!! Enjoy your day!! Thank you and the cast for my favorite show The Dukes of Hazzard!” and another netizen added, “Still handsome as ever!”
The actor will always be remembered for his role as the beloved Luke Duke, which was later played by Johnny Knoxville in the 2005 film Dukes of Hazzard–that also included Jessica Simpson as Daisy, Seann William Scott as Bo, Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse and Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg.
But if you grew up in the early 1980s, no other actor compares with Tom Wopat and his legendary portrayal of Luke Duke!
Please share this story and wish Tom Wopat a super happy birthday!
If you enjoyed this story about Tom Wopat, we’re sure you’ll love the story about John Schneider, who played Bo Duke, and his tribute to his late wife.
- Museum refuses to stop displaying “Dukes of Hazzard” Confederate Flag on iconic vehicle
- Alicia Allain, wife of ‘Dukes Of Hazzard’ star John Schneider, dies at 53 years old