He is best known for his role in “Old Yeller” and “The Shaggy Dog.”
Tommy Kirk died at his home in Las Vegas on Tuesday. His death was announced by his companion and child actor Paul Petersen on Facebook as his statement began, “TOMMY KIRK 9/28/2021.”
“My friend of many decades, Tommy Kirk, was found dead last night. You will surely recall his string of Disney movies; “Shaggy Dog. Ol’ Yeller,” etc,” Peterson wrote.
He also stated that his “Old Yeller” co-star Bev Washburn was the one who called him to break the news, “Tommy was intensely private. He lived alone in Las Vegas, close to his friend…and “Ol Yeller” co-star, Bev Washburn…and it was she who called me this morning.”
“Tommy was gay and estranged from what remains of his blood-family. We in A Minor Consideration are Tommy’s family. Without apology. We will take care of this,” he continued.
“Please know that Tommy Kirk loved you, his fans. You lifted him up when an Industry let him down in 1965. He was not bitter. His church comforted him. May God have mercy on his soul,” the note ended.
Kirk was the main star of a few Disney films including Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent-Minded Professor, its spin-off Son of Flubber and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones. He began his career as a child actor and was discovered in 1954 at 13.
According to PEOPLE, when Kirk was 21, he was terminated from Disney after he was found to be in a relationship with another boy yet notwithstanding being cut from Disney, he actually proceeded to make films during the 1960s, for example, Pajama Party, Village of the Giants with Beau Bridges and Ron Howard and 1968’s Mars Needs Women.
Reactions to Disney Movies’ Star Tommy Kirk Dead At 79
I grew up with a LOT of Disney Channel as a child, back when they showed movies from when my parents were kids.— Casper Fox (@CasperFox) September 29, 2021
Tommy Kirk was my first crush.
Walt himself fired Tommy for the crime of being gay. The irony isn't lost on me. Tommy was never bitter. But I am.
RIP to a gay icon. pic.twitter.com/ThHSgcpWfH
So sad to hear Tommy Kirk has passed, who was an indispensable part of so many films of my youth: OLD YELLER, THE SHAGGY DOG, SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR and more. A great unsung actor. RIP pic.twitter.com/AISwho67x8— Hillary Warned Us About SCOTUS (@HillaryWarnedUs) September 29, 2021
A VERY SAD FAREWELL— James L Neibaur (@JimLNeibaur) September 29, 2021
Growing up in the 60s, I saw all the Disney movies w/ #TommyKirk – Absent Minded Professor, Swiss Family Robinson, et al. Tommy died yesterday at 79. Hasn't hit press yet. It was announced by his friend Paul Petersen. Tommy was a big part of my childhood. RIP. pic.twitter.com/ITbQqheZ9n
I am so sad to hear of Tommy Kirk’s passing. I loved him very much. I never met him, but I had an enormous crush on him. Later in my life I realized what a fine actor he was. The crush remains.— Annette O'Toole (@creamofwool) September 29, 2021