(NBC News) - James Best, an actor best known for his portrayal of bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on the hit TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard," died Monday night, his wife confirmed to NBC News.

Best, 88, had spent his final days in a hospice, where he succumbed to complications related to pneumonia, according to his wife, Dorothy Best Collier.

In a career that spanned seven decades, Best appeared in war pictures, Westerns and comedies. But his most famous character was Coltrane, the ornery lawman who seemed to do nothing but chase Bo and Luke Duke — and their orange 1969 Dodge Charger — around fictional Hazzard County, Georgia. Coltrane was often accompanied by his basset hound, Flash.

"Rosco was his defining character, but he had such a beautiful and wonderful and vast career," Collier said.

Best took on that character in the late 1970s, after leaving Hollywood to teach acting for several years. His return to the camera coincided with an offer to star in "The Dukes of Hazzard," a mid-season replacement series on CBS, according to an obituary posted on Best's website by a friend and authorized by his family.

The show was a massive hit, and ran from 1979 to 1985. After the show wrapped, Best kept acting in other projects.

But he continued to embrace Sheriff Coltrane, reprising the character for a pair of reunion movies and in a video game based on the show.

He also wrote, produced and directed other projects, and acted on stage. He produced a 2012 sequel to the 1959 cult horror movie "The Killer Shrews," in which he had starred. His last completed film was "The Sweeter Side of Life," a 2013 movie for the Hallmark Channel.

At the time of his death, he was working on a film about World War II veterans, his online obituary said.

In addition to Collier, Best is survived by a son, Gary Allen Best, daughters JoJami Best Tyler and Janeen Damian and their families, including three grandchildren.