Bill Hayes, star of Days of Our Lives, passed away on Friday, Jan. 12, in Los Angeles at the age of 98.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of our beloved Bill Hayes,” a representative of the show shared with PEOPLE. “One of the longest-running characters on Days of our Lives, Bill originated the role of ‘Doug Williams’ in 1970 and portrayed him continuously throughout his life.”
“He and his wife, Susan Seaforth-Hayes, remained the foundation of the Williams-Horton family spanning more than 50 years,” continued the rep.
In Days of Our Lives, Hayes played Doug for 2141 episodes. His real-life wife stared alongside him as Julie Williams. The couple met on set in 1970. They married on Oct. 12, 1974, and their characters wed on TV on Oct. 1, 1976. During their fictional wedding, they re-read their actual vows to each other.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bill and Susan said “I do” in their living room with only 16 people present. When Doug and Julie got married, 16 million people tuned in.
Bill Hayes Earned the Daytime Emmy’s Lifetime Achievement Award
The Hayeses became the first soap stars to land on the cover of Time Magazine in Jan. 1976 for an edition titled Soap Operas: Sex and Suffering in the Afternoon. The two remained with Days of Our Lives on and off for decades. Bill’s last appearance was in 2023, and Susan is still making appearances.
In 2018, they earned a joint lifetime achievement award from the Daytime Emmys.
“I have known Bill for most of my life, and he embodied the heart and soul of Days of Our Lives,” Ken Corday, the soap’s executive producer said in a statement. “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.”
Bill Hayes first found success while starting as a regular on the live variety series, Your Show of Shows, which was created by the late comedian Sid Ceasar.
Hayes was also a chart-topping singer. In 1955, his song The Ballad of Davy Crockett reached the No. 1 spot in America. He and Brady Bunch actress Florence Henderson also worked as duet partners that fans came to call The Singing Sweethearts. Together, they recorded several Oldsmobile TV commercials.
Bill Hayes is survived by his wife and his son, William Foster Hayes IV.