Actor James Arness, 88, died today from natural causes at his Brentwood home.

Arness, who towered at 6 foot and 7 inches, played Matt Dillon on the TV show Gunsmoke that lasted 20 years from 1955 to 1975.

Before acting, Arness enlisted in the United States Army to serve in World War II. He hoped to be a naval pilot, but the height limit for aviators was 6 feet 2. Instead, he went to the Army and served as a rifleman with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division,

Arness was severely wounded during an operation in Italy, and honorably discharged in 1945. His wounds would continue to bother him resulting in acute leg pain later in life.

Arness' military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze battle stars, the World War II Victory Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

After the military, he soon started acting and appearing in films after a stint as a radio announcer. Arness' film debut was as Peter Holstrom in 'The Farmer's Daughter' (1947).

Arness was close friends with John Wayne, who was originally offered the lead role in the TV western drama Gunsmoke. Although he turned it down, Wayne strongly recommended Arness. The show would run for two decades.

Among the many shows Arness worked on after Gunsmoke, Arness reached cult status in Europe for his role as Zeb Macahan in the western series 'How the West was Won.'

Arness had a younger brother Peter Graves, also an actor, who passed in 2010. Arness is survived by his wife Janet, two sons and six grandchildren.