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Richard S. "Cactus" Pryor

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Richard S. "Cactus" Pryor Nationally-known humorist and broadcast personality Richard S. "Cactus" Pryor left life's stage on August 30, 2011, in Austin after a long and spirited challenge against Alzheimer's. He was 88. Born in 1923, the entertainment icon was an Austin native whose grandfather helped build the Texas Capital. Cactus contracted show business fever at age 3 when his father, Richard "Skinny" Pryor, let him make stage appearances at Austin's early-day picture show, the Cactus, which he owned. Those stints at the landmark led to his permanent nickname. Cactus attended Austin High School and the University of Texas. After leaving UT he served in the US Army Air Corp. Upon his return to Austin he became a member of Lady Bird Johnson's broadcast family in 1944 when he joined the staff of KLBJ Radio and became a familiar decades-long fixture to Central Texas listeners. He also served as program manager for Austin's first and only television station for ten years, the Johnson's KTBC. He made public disclosure of his Alzheimer's diagnosis in 2007 but vowed that the show would go on. And indeed, his familiar voice was still heard on KLBJ this week via archival recordings, culminating a remarkable 67-year run. Beyond his broadcast career, Cactus also appeared in two movies, "Hellfighters" and The Green Berets," with John Wayne. He and "the Duke" were friends and Cactus was introduced to the crew of the Green Berets as the "funniest man alive." Not surprisingly, he was a sought-after special events entertainment headliner. One of his trademark acts was to appear in the character of a monarch or other royalty of an obscure European principality. Disguised by dress and accent, he mesmerized dinner guests who were totally charmed and then astounded when the masquerade was revealed. Cactus has been a distinguished writer all of his life. The bulk of his work has been for the radio ear or the television monitor, but he has published two books of his radio commentaries, Inside Texas and Playback, and a more recently light-hearted work, My Sand Trap or Yours. Cactus also served as co-host of the weekly Darrell Royal Football Show for a number of years in the late 60's during that legendary U.T. coach's championship run. As such, he gave voice to the questions of Longhorn fans and often spiced the commentary with irreverent ad libs. Cactus has been the recipient of a host of honors for community service through the years, including recognition as Austin's Most Worthy Citizen. Cactus is preceded in death by his parents Richard "Skinny" Pryor and Mary Thompson Pryor; first wife of 33 years and mother of his four children, Jewell Elizabeth Allison Pryor; siblings Mary Alice Pryor Bryant Clark, Arthur Pryor, Bill Pryor and his beloved Labrador retrievers. Cactus is survived by his wife of 22 years, Peggy Davis Pryor of Austin; daughter Kerry Pryor Guthrie and husband Larry, of Austin; son Paul Pryor of Austin; son Don Pryor and wife Kim, of Austin; son Dayne Pryor and wife Julie, of Dripping Springs; step-son Stuart Davis Clark and wife Julie, of Burnet; and daughter-in-law DorRae Pryor Stevens and husband Bobby, of Dripping Springs; grandchildren Allison Parnell Ponton and husband Mark, Ana Louise Pryor, Richard Ray Pecos Pryor and fiancé Katie Pinson, Elizabeth Jewell Pryor, Marissa Lynn Pryor, Kevin James Clark, Michael Davis Clark and great-granddaughter Ava Leigh Ponton; siblings Wally Pryor and wife Euna Faye, of Cedar Park; Harriett Pryor Scotka and husband Luddy, of San Antonio; mother-in-law Blanche Davis Ward of Little Rock, AR; and sisters-in-law Sarah Pryor of Austin and Patricia Davis Norris and husband Art, of Little Rock, AR. Cactus is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews, friends, and mishpokhe. All family members are deeply grateful for the many expressions of love and support. Cactus's greatest legacy will be the warm smiles he leaves with so many across Texas and far beyond. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Austin, Meals on Wheels, Capital Area Food Bank, Caritas, Austin Area , Skinny's Gallery at the Paramount Theater or the charity of your choice to benefit those in need. Cactus's family will observe a private burial at the Texas State Cemetery. If you love Cactus, be with us to celebrate his life at Riverbend Church of Austin, 4214 N. Capital of Texas Highway, Austin, TX, 78746 at 2:00 PM, Friday, September 2, 2011. Obituary and guestbook online at www.wcfish.com

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Published in Austin American-Statesman from Sept. 1 to Sept. 2, 2011
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