Veteran ‘Days of Our Lives’ Actor Was 98

Bill Hayes, who played Doug Williams on Days of our Lives, has died. The actor was 98 years old, and appeared on the soap for 53 years.

Hayes’ death was announced by Days representatives in an emailed statement. A cause of death was not shared.

“It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of our beloved Bill Hayes,” the statement reads. “One of the longest running characters on Days of our Lives, Bill originated the role of ‘Doug Williams’ in 1970 and portrayed him continuously throughout his life. He and his wife, Susan Seaforth-Hayes, remained the foundation of the Williams-Horton family spanning more than 50 years.”

“I have known Bill for most of my life and he embodied the heart and soul of Days of our Lives,” says executive producer Ken Corday. “Although we are grieving and will miss him, Bill’s indelible legacy will live on in our hearts and the stories we tell, both on and off the screen.”

The Hayes are both legends of daytime television. Seaforth-Hayes made her Days of Our Lives debut as Julie Olson in 1968, with Hayes joining in 1970. As their characters fell in love on-screen, so did they in real life. The pair got married in 1974 and stayed together from that point on. Doug and Julie split twice on the soap opera, but got back together for good in 1994.

Doug and Julie were the “it” TV couple of the 1970s. The on and off-screen popularity of the couple led to them becoming the first soap opera actors to appear on the cover of Time Magazine. In 2018, Hayes and Seaforth-Hayes were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Daytime Emmys.

Susan Seaforth Hayes, Bill Hayes in 'Days of our Lives'

Susan Seaforth-Hayes and Bill Hayes for Days of Our Lives (© NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

Hayes was born William Foster Hayes III in Harvey, Illinois, on June 5, 1925 and was raised in the Midwest. He was a freshman at DePauw University when he enlisted in the Navy Air Corps. On his 18th birthday, he received his orders to report for active duty. He trained to be a fighter pilot and was two weeks away from receiving his commission in the Marine Air Corps when World War II ended. He opted for civilian life when given the choice to reenlist.

Hayes was married to his first wife, Mary Hobbs, from 1947 to 1969. They met at DePauw University and went on to have five children. A talented singer, Hayes was in the burlesque revue Funzapoppin in 1949 and joined the short-lived TV show, Your Show of Shows, starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca in 1950.

His first film role was in Stop, You’re Killing Me (1952) and he appeared in his first Broadway show, Me and Juliet, in 1953. He toured with the show after it was on Broadway for more than a year. Hayes recorded a performance of “The Ballad of Davey Crockett,” which became a Billboard No. 1 hit and sold over three million copies. He was in the tour of Bye Bye Birdie and also was in shows such as Brigadoon, The Pajama Game, and George M!.

Hayes was cast in Days (then on NBC, now streaming on Peacock) in 1970 just after his divorce from Hobbs. In 1984, after playing Doug for 14 consecutive years (during which the heyday of the Doug and Julie craze occurred), Hayes and Seaforth-Hayes left the series due to a decrease in their characters’ popularity. They returned intermittently until coming back as regulars in 1999. Hayes earned two Daytime Emmy nominations for his performance during those first 14 years.

Over the course of his 53 years on the soap opera, Hayes appeared in 2,141 episodes.

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