(written from a Production point of view)
He was best known for his role as C.D. Parker on the television series Walker, Texas Ranger. His many other TV credits include guest appearances on Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Waltons, Mary Tyler Moore, The Rockford Files, Alice, Dallas, CHiPs, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team, L.A. Law, Home Improvement, and Murder, She Wrote. He also co-starred with Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell in a 1991 episode of Quantum Leap.
Willingham was also among the many Star Trek performers to star in the 1986 mini-series Dream West. Among his co-stars were F. Murray Abraham, Jeff Allin, John Anderson, Lee Bergere, James Cromwell, Michael Ensign, Alice Krige, Matt McCoy, Glenn Morshower, Fritz Weaver, Anthony Zerbe, and his Star Trek: The Next Generation co-star Jonathan Frakes. Willingham also appeared with Frakes in the 1987 mini-series Nutcracker, along with John Glover, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Frank Military, and George D. Wallace. Willingham's other mini-series credits include 1979's Backstairs at the White House (with Ian Abercrombie, John Anderson, Bibi Besch, Robert Hooks, Gregory Itzin, Bill Quinn, and Paul Winfield), 1982's The Blue and the Gray (with Stephen Collins, Robin Gammell, Gregg Henry, William Lucking, Charles Napier, Duncan Regehr, and Paul Winfield), and 1985's The Atlanta Child Murders (with Gary Graham, Andrew Robinson, and Percy Rodriguez).
Among Willingham's many feature film credits are 1974's Big Bad Mama with William Shatner of Star Trek: The Original Series and 1981's The Howling with Robert Picardo of Star Trek: Voyager. (The latter also co-starred Star Trek: Deep Space Nine guest stars Dick Miller and Kenneth Tobey). His film credits also include Paper Moon (1973), Chinatown (1974, with Perry Lopez, Roy Jenson, cinematography by John A. Alonzo, music by Jerry Goldsmith and stunts by Hal Needham), Norma Rae (1979), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987, with James McIntire), The Last Boy Scout (1991, with Bruce McGill and Frank Collison), Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), and The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). He also played Clay Stone in 1991's City Slickers (with David Paymer, Tracey Walter and Robert Costanzo), as well as its 1994 sequel, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold.
Politically, Willingham was conservative like his Walker, Texas Ranger co-star Chuck Norris and was a lifelong registered Texas Republican. In 2000, Willingham ran for Congress in his native first district against incumbent Democrat Representative Max Sandlin, losing to Sandlin in a landslide. Willingham's lead challenger for the Republican nomination in the primary was Smith County, Texas judge Louie Gohmert who in turn would defeat Sandlin in 2004, the year of Willingham's passing. Gohmert has represented the district ever since 2005.
Other Trek connections
- Independence Day (1983 film) with Cliff DeYoung, Bert Remsen, and Anne Haney
- Born in East L.A. (1987 film) with Kamala Lopez-Dawson, Terrence Evans, Tony Plana, Josh Cruze, Randal Patrick, David Selburg, and Lilyan Chauvin