'Gunsmoke' Star -- Dead at 88

6/3/2011 3:00 AM PDT

'Gunsmoke' Star -- Dead at 88

James Arness -- famous for his role as Marshall Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke" -- died Friday at his LA area home of natural causes ... a family spokesperson confirms.

Arness played the legendary lawman during the show's impressive 20 year run -- making him a household name and gaining him three Emmy nominations.

Standing at 6 feet, 7 inches ... Arness was said to be a very imposing character on the legendary western ... but offscreen he was described as very shy.

In addition to his long acting career -- Arness was a World War II Army Combat vet and an avid surfer.

He was 88.