Society

Actor Clifton James Dies At 96 (Photo)

| by David Bonner

Clifton James, an actor best known for playing Southern sheriffs and other authority figures, died on April 15. He was 96.

The cause was complications from diabetes, said his daughter, Lynn James, reports Fox News.

As an actor, James was stereotyped as a Southerner, but he was actually from the Northwest, born in Spokane, Washington.

His first notable role as a Southerner was his portrayal of Carr, the cigar-chomping, prison floor-walker in the 1967 movie "Cool Hand Luke," starring Paul Newman. As Carr, he delivered a famous monologue, in which he recited to the inmates a litany of offenses that would cause them to spend "a night in the box."

Several years later, James landed what became his most famous role, playing a swaggering, tobacco-spitting Louisiana sheriff named J.W. Pepper, in the 1973 James Bond film "Live and Let Die."  He reprised the role of Sheriff Pepper in the next Bond film, "The Man with the Golden Gun," in 1974.

On television, he played Sheriff Lester Crabb on "The Dukes of Hazzard," and had recurring roles in "Gunsmoke" and "Dallas," reports The New York Times.

Lynn James said her father met with real Southern sheriffs in preparation for his roles. "I noticed they love their stomachs," he said, according to IMDB. "They stick them out, they're really proud of their stomachs."

Despite being stereotyped as a Southerner  in general and a sheriff in particular, it was just one of hundreds of various roles that he played throughout his long career, and "he would have never picked that one" to be remembered by, said his daughter.

During World War II, James served as a soldier with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific, receiving two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. He was not nostalgic about his time in the service, because he said he "lost too many friends" in battle.

After the war, he took acting classes at the University of Oregon and acted in plays, then moved to New York City to pursue his acting career.

In his later years, he spent the fall and spring of each year in New York, and wintered in Delray Beach, Florida, and summered in Oregon. His wife, Laurie, died in 2015.

He is survived by two sisters, five children, 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Lynn James said some of his ashes will likely be spread in the Clackamas River in Oregon, in which he swam as a boy.

Sources: Fox News, The New York Times, IMDB / Photo credit: C. Holmes/Flickr, KBC TV

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