Pernell Elvin Roberts, Jr. (May 18, 1928 – January 24, 2010) was an American stage, movie and television actor as well as singer. In addition to guest starring in over 60 television series, he was widely known for his roles as Ben Cartwright's eldest son, Adam Cartwright, on the western series Bonanza, a role he played from 1959 to 1965 — and as chief surgeon Dr. John McIntyre, the title character on Trapper John, M.D. (1979–1986).
He was also widely known for his life-long activism, which included participation in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 and pressuring NBC to refrain from hiring whites to portray minority characters.
Roberts was born in 1928 in Waycross, Georgia, the only child of Pernell Elvin Roberts, Sr. (1907–1980, a Dr Pepper salesman) and Minnie (Betty) Myrtle Morgan Roberts (1910–1988). During his high school years, he played the horn, acted in school and church plays and sang in local USO shows. He attended, but did not graduate from, Georgia Tech. While serving for two years in the United States Marine Corps, he played the tuba and horn in the Marine Corps Band, although he was also skilled in the sousaphone and percussion (New York Times, January 26, 2010). He later attended, but also without graduating, the University of Maryland, where he had his first exposure to acting in classical theater. He appeared in four productions while a student, including Othello and Antigone, but left school to act in summer stock.