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Bill Hayes, longtime star of ‘Days of Our Lives,’ dies at 98

Hayes played Doug Williams on the daytime serial since 1970, five years after the show’s debut.
Actor Bill Hayes during a "Days of our Lives" book signing in Woodstock, Ga. on Oct. 30, 2015.
Actor Bill Hayes at a "Days of Our Lives" book signing in Woodstock, Ga., on Oct. 30, 2015. Ben Rose / Getty Images
/ Source: Variety

Bill Hayes, a longtime star of the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” died Friday at the age of 98.

Hayes played the character of Doug Williams on the daytime serial since 1970, five years after the show’s debut. He met his real-life wife, actress Susan Seaforth, on the series set in the fictional Illinois town of Salem.

Hayes and Seaforth were married in 1974. Two years later, their characters were married on the show. The same year, the pair also appeared on the cover of Time magazine in a cover story on the popularity of daytime soaps.

Bill Hayes, as Doug Williams and Susan Seaforth as Julie Williams in a "Days of Our Lives" wedding episode.
Bill Hayes as Doug Williams and Susan Seaforth as Julie Williams in a "Days of Our Lives" wedding episode.Herb Ball / NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

“I have known Bill for most of my life and he embodied the heart and soul of ‘Days of our Lives,’ ” said 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.”

Hayes’ character was one of the longest-running characters on the soap, now produced by Sony Pictures TV. As pillars of the show, the couple faced numerous trials, ranging from Doug’s deranged ex-wife, an exploding oven and numerous serial killers.

Hayes earned two Daytime Emmy nominations for his work on the show in 1975 and 1976. Hayes and Seaforth-Hayes earned lifetime achievements award from the Daytime Emmy Awards in 2018.

Hayes’ career began in the early days of network TV in 1949 when he starred on Olsen & Johnson’s “Fireball Fun-for-All” and later worked on Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows.”

Susan Seaforth Hayes as Julie Williams, Bill Hayes as Doug Williams, and Suzanne Rogers as Maggie Horton.
Susan Seaforth Hayes as Julie Williams, Bill Hayes as Doug Williams and Suzanne Rogers as Maggie Horton.Fred Sabine / NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Born in Harvey, Ill., Hayes, a singer and dancer, made his Broadway debut in the Rodgers & Hammerstein tuner “Me and Juliet” in 1953, according to SoapCentral.com. He also did national tours of such stage musicals as “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Student Prince,” “Anything Goes,” “Camelot,” and “The Pajama Game,” according to SoapCentral.

In 1956, Hayes had a pop hit with his rendition of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” the song made popular by actor Fess Parker, who played Crockett on the Disney-produced series that aired in daytime from 1954 to 1955.

By 1970, Hayes was a divorced father five children. The role as a formerly imprisoned con artist turned nightclub singer on “Days” proved to be that fit.

In 1984, the couple quit “Days” after their characters’ airtime diminished. Seaforth Hayes ended up returning to the show in 1990 without Hayes. Hayes made sporadic appearances in Salem and performed on stage throughout the rest of the 1990s. Hayes also earned a doctorate in education from West Virginia University.

In 2003, Hayes and Seaforth Hayes returned to the series, even though both characters had been presumed by viewers to be dead.