Herbert “Cowboy” Coward, a native of Haywood County who gained fame for his memorable portrayal as a villain in the 1972 Burt Reynolds film Deliverance, tragically lost his life in a traffic accident in Haywood County yesterday afternoon.
Sergeant Michael Owens of the North Carolina Highway Patrol reported that troopers were dispatched following a 911 call regarding the collision at 3:23 p.m. The incident occurred as Coward and his partner, Bertha Brooks, were departing from a doctor’s appointment at an office along U.S. 19 between Clyde and Canton. Unfortunately, Coward failed to yield, resulting in a collision on the passenger side of the small Nissan passenger car he was driving. The other vehicle involved was a Ford F-150 driven by a 16-year-old. Notably, neither Coward nor Brooks were wearing seatbelts, and speed was ruled out as a contributing factor.
Sgt. Owens stated, “We had multiple witnesses who confirmed that the driver of the F-150 wasn’t speeding. Our investigation of the scene’s damage also supported this conclusion.”
Tragically, in addition to Coward and Brooks, their pet chihuahua and Coward’s pet squirrel also lost their lives in the accident. Coward rose to prominence through his role in the 1972 blockbuster film, where he delivered the iconic line, “He got a real purty mouth, ain’t he?” He secured the role after developing a friendship with Hollywood actor Burt Reynolds during their time working as “gunfighters” at the Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park in Maggie Valley in the early 1970s.
Born in 1938 to Fred and Moody Parker Coward, Cowboy initially worked as an itinerant laborer to support his family following the death of their mother. Later, as a heavy equipment operator, Cowboy traversed the United States but eventually returned to the county of his birth, settling down in Haywood County.