On August 30, 1938, a boy was born to Pete and Muriel Colley, in the small town of Klamath Falls, Oregon. Named Don Pedro, he always was a robust character, full of mischief and vitality. He was also a bit hefty, which suited him well by the time he went to school at Klamath Union High School.
Pedro excelled in sports, particularly football and the track and field events. For many years, he held the KUHS records for shot put and javelin, and few people in football wanted to go up against his bulk and sheer strength. Even then, though, Pedro wasn’t wrapped up in the civil unrest that often gripped black people in a predominantly white town. To Pedro, people were people, regardless of the shade of their skin. There were good ones and bad ones, whether they were light or dark skinned.
He did want to be called black, though, rather than colored. As he related to a close friend, Buzz, who was white, when Buzz made the mistake to call him colored, “What color am I? Black. What color are you? White. Black is the absence of color. White is the combination of all colors. You are colored, I’m not.”
The eloquence of his simple and straight forward words were to serve him well, in the future. In fact, the man has always been well grounded and unbiased when it came to color, despite growing up in the turbulent 50s and 60s.
In part, that belief was boosted by visits to a white family who lived in a national park about 60 miles to the north. His father, Pete, was a terrific piano player, and as it happened, the woman of the household, Freda, who was Buzz’s mother, was also quite accomplished. Their styles differed, ragtime and honky tonk, but they also complimented each other. So while blacks were normally shunned by white communities, on those visits, Pete and Freda would take turns playing the piano. It wasn’t long before neighbors would start dropping by to listen to the heavenly music. It showed Pedro that a beautiful harmony could occur when people worked together, putting aside their differences.
Upon graduation from KUHS, and having barely missed out on representing the US in discus for the 1960 Olympics, Pedro applied for and was accepted at University of Oregon, with an athletic scholarship, and took architecture as a major. He excelled in his studies and classes, as he had done in High School. For a time, he also studied at Southern Oregon College, or SOC, in Ashland, Oregon.
In an informal phone interview, the author found out that in 1960, Don Pedro heard of the beatnik culture in San Francisco and moved there, from curiosity and a pursuit of opportunities. One of his friends in San Francisco was an actor in the play, Caligula. Don Pedro drove him to the production one day, and grew interested in acting at that point, from watching the performances. He spent the next 6 years studying theater arts, playing various parts, and in 1966, moved to Hollywood.
In Hollywood, he was befriended by Jack Palance, a major actor. He acted with Jack in Melodyland Theatre in Anaheim, in a production of “Heaven can Wait”. With the help of agents, Don Pedro also picked up guest star roles in a number of TV shows, including The Virginian, Here Come the Brides and he had a recurring role as Gideon in the Daniel Boone show.
More guest roles came his way and he delighted crowds with his portrayals. He secured and acted in movies such as Beneath the Planet of the Apes, THX1138 and he had a recurring role as Sheriff Little in The Dukes of Hazard TV series.
Don Pedro makes many appearances at film festivals and conventions, where his popularity is undoubted. He has a daughter who is studying to become an educator, and he is justifiably proud of her accomplishments. Another love of his, though, is the A-frame cabin his father built, only a couple dozen miles from Klamath Falls. Nestled in pine trees and near several fishing places, this is ideal for a man who professes a love of nature. He even keeps in shape by sawing and splitting firewood for use in the winter.
It is hard to be around Don Pedro without becoming infused with his love of life and a sense of serenity that few people seem to achieve. His humor is contagious, and this is an actor who, in real life, doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word, “Stranger”. His zest for life came through in his acting. It is a pleasure to get to know him and to watch him on the stage.