Don Perkins of Decatur doesn’t just look like a certain celebrity. In fact, the 63-year-old Texoma Area Paratransit System (TAPS) driver is famous in his own right.
“Everybody thinks I look like Willie Nelson,” Perkins said. “Some people call me Willie Don, others call me Willie. And some people don’t even know my name.”
This mutual western appearance has landed him roles in big-name productions.
“I was an extra in ‘Walker Texas Ranger’ and ‘Prison Break’ when they came to town a few years ago. I did a couple of episodes with each of those,” Perkins said. “I’ve also had different roles in movies – from a dead, bloody person in ‘Night of the Zombies’ to a preacher to a bad guy shooting a kid in a western movie to gunfighter roles in ‘Tombstone’ and ‘Gunsmoke.'”
True to the characteristics of his celebrity lookalike, the Texas native has embraced western culture by taking part in gunfighting reenactment guilds the past 15 years.
“A guy asked me to join a group that does gunfighting,” Perkins said. “He said, ‘You look like a gunfighter.’ I said, ‘I do?’ We laughed, and then he invited me to their gun practice to see if I liked it. I did.”
As a member of the Lonestar Legacy Group of Gunfighters, he participates in Reenactment Guild of America (RGA) competitions across the country.
Locally, he performs skits for events such as Chisholm Trail Days in Decatur.
“We meet about once a month with the summer being a busy time for us,” Perkins said. “We do shows across the state and go to competitions, therefore we have to practice more.”
Across the state and in Oklahoma, Perkins also judges these competitions.
“They look at costumes, the skit itself, what is being portrayed and how it is portrayed,” he said. “It’s an expensive hobby to have the correct clothing and firearms. People come and people go. But I do this to keep the heritage alive. It is important to me.”
An appreciation for the heritage began at a young age as a high schooler at L.D. Bell in Hurst.
“When I was young, I had longer hair,” he said. “I played in a rock-and-roll band and was a member of my high school’s rodeo team. I was called a hippie cowboy.”
In another attempt to preserve this culture, three years ago Perkins became an ordained minister to preside over western-themed weddings.
“I can legally marry people,” he said. “I don’t claim to preach. I just did it to marry people in my boots and hat. I did my granddaughter’s wedding.”
Perkins is also a member of the Decatur Masonic Lodge and president of the Decatur Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association.
“We raise money for the police department through raffles and other fundraisers,” he said. “We want to get us a car so that we can go out and enforce handicap parking. I stay busy.”
Perhaps he keeps most busy in his job shuttling the elderly to doctor’s appointments and the young to preschool.
For 14 years, he has driven transportation for the Wise County chapter of TAPS, two of those years as supervisor.
“I like meeting different people, and driving the bus you get to meet all types of people. They’re all pretty interesting,” Perkins said. “You never know what you’re going to see. You also never know what you’re going to hear.
“I pick up these little old ladies who like to talk about their health issues aloud,” he added with a laugh. “Some things I don’t need to hear.”
Except for a few years in Colorado, Perkins has lived in Texas all of his life – being born and raised in Fort Worth and relocating to Wise County on his return to his home state.
“My move to Colorado was on a whim,” Perkins said. “I went there on vacation, and I decided I wanted to move there. But I got tired of it and quickly realized there’s no place like home, no place like Texas. So I came back.”
Perkins has three daughters, Alisha of California, Rayelynne of Haltom City and April of Aurora; two sons, Zak of Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Joshua of Santa Cruz, Calif.; 12 grandchildren; and two sisters, Tammy Stanley of Bowie and Sandra Wilson of Palestine.