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Claude Akins
Born Claude Marion Akins
(1926-05-25)May 25, 1926
Nelson, Georgia, U.S.
Died January 27, 1994(1994-01-27) (aged 67)
Altadena, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1953–1992
Spouse(s) Therese Fairfield (1952-1994; his death; 3 children)

Claude Marion Akins (May 25, 1926 – January 27, 1994) was an American character actor with a long career on stage, screen, and television. Powerful in appearance and voice, Akins could be counted on to play the clever (or less than clever) tough guy, on the side of good or bad, in movies and television. He is remembered as Sheriff Lobo on the 1970s television series B. J. and the Bear, and later The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, a spin-off series.

Early years[edit | edit source]

Akins was born in Nelson, Georgia, and grew up in Bedford, Indiana.[1] He served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in World War II in Burma and the Philippines. After the war, he graduated in 1949 from Northwestern University, where he had majored in Theatre[2] and became a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

Film career[edit | edit source]

As a film actor, Akins first appeared in From Here to Eternity (1953). He appeared as a seaman and shipmate of Lee Marvin in The Caine Mutiny (1954). He portrayed prisoner Joe Burdette in Rio Bravo (starring John Wayne, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin and Angie Dickinson), Naval Lt. Commander Farber in Don't Give Up the Ship (starring Jerry Lewis), Sgt Kolowicz in Merrill's Marauders, Rockwell W. "Rocky" Rockman in The Devil's Brigade, the Reverend Jeremiah Brown in the movie Inherit the Wind (1960), outlaw Ben Lane in Comanche Station that same year, Seely Jones in A Distant Trumpet (1964), and the gorilla leader Aldo in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), the last original Apes movie. He had a tiny part in the movie The Sea Chase with John Wayne. He appeared with Yul Brynner and Robert Fuller in the film Return of the Seven (1966) (also called Return of the Magnificent Seven and The Magnificent Seven 2), and also appeared in the movie Seasons of the Heart (1993).

Television[edit | edit source]

Akins was cast in a large number of television series, including The Adventures of Superman (episode number 69, "Peril by Sea"), in which he plays a villainous conspirator, Crusader, and I Love Lucy. Much of his work was on westerns, including Frontier, My Friend Flicka (three times), Boots and Saddles, Northwest Passage, The Restless Gun (four times), Sheriff of Cochise, Wagon Train (four times), Overland Trail, Frontier Circus, The Tall Man, The Rebel, The Big Valley, Daniel Boone, The Legend of Jesse James, Death Valley Days, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre (four times), The Rifleman (three times), Rawhide, Gunsmoke (10 times), Bonanza (four times), The Alaskans (twice) and The Texan (twice).

He appeared once on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Empire, Laredo ("The Treasure of San Diablo"), the syndicated series, Pony Express (in "The Story of Julesburg" with Sebastian Cabot and James Best), and The Oregon Trail, with Rod Taylor. He was cast as Jarret Sutton in "Escape to Memphis" (1959) and as Beaudry Rawlins in "Duel on the River" (1960) on Darren McGavin's NBC series, Riverboat.

Akins played a rodeo clown convicted of armed robbery in "Killer on Horseback", an episode of the NBC anthology series Star Stage, which became the pilot episode for the syndicated police drama State Trooper, starring Rod Cameron. The episode was later broadcast on the regular series as "Rodeo Rough House". Beverly Garland also appeared in the episode as Nellie Austin, a sharpshooter.[3] Akins and Garland much later appeared together in the 1963 episode "The Chooser of the Slain" on the ABC/Warner Bros. Western series, The Dakotas.[4]

Among Akins' four appearances on NBC's Laramie with series stars John Smith and Robert Fuller was the role of former Sheriff Jim Dark in the episode "Queen of Diamonds" (September 20, 1960), with Julie London as Dark's estranged wife, a card dealer using the name "June Brown." Dark had foiled a robbery by the Reeves brothers, one of whom was killed, but his right hand was severely injured, and he could no longer handle a gun. June avoided her husband for his own protection when the outlaw brothers pursued them. Clem Reeves was portrayed by Tony Young, later cast as "Cord" in the short-lived Gunslinger series on CBS. Ultimately, the gang was captured, and the Darks were reconciled, leaving Laramie by stagecoach.[5]

Akins was featured in two episodes of the original CBS series The Twilight Zone (i.e., "The Little People" and "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street"). He guest-starred in three episodes each of Combat! (4th and 5th seasons) and The Untouchables. He appeared on Rod Cameron's early syndicated series, City Detective, Meet McGraw with Frank Lovejoy, the ABC/WB drama, The Roaring 20's, and Police Story.

In 1960, he and Marty Ingels appeared as themselves in the episode "Amateur Night" in NBC's short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier; the series was set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood.

Akins' other early appearances included a role as a policeman on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in "Place of Shadows" (1956) and "Reward to Finder" (1957). Akins played another television cop, good-natured Sheriff's Detective Phillip Dix, in the first season of the Perry Mason in "The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife" (Episode 1-26) that aired March 15, 1958. He was in a first-season episode of Maverick titled "Burial Ground of the Gods" (1958) that starred Jack Kelly. In 1965, Akins played El Supremo in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." episode, The Very Important Zombie Affair. In 1967 Akins played Lt. Finch in The Lucy Show episode, "Lucy Meets the Law", as he interrogates Lucy as a grand larceny suspect. Lucy is eventually cleared of the crime when the actual redhead confesses to it.

Akins was cast as Lou Myerson in the 1964 episode, "One Monday Afternoon", of the NBC education drama series, Mr. Novak, starring James Franciscus and as Dr. Roy Kirk in an episode of the CBS Political Drama, Slattery's people, (Which starred Richard Crenna.) "When Do they Hang the Good Samaritan?" Dr. Kirk's sister Lucrezia was played by Barbara Eden. In 1965, he was featured in an episode of Kraft Suspense Theater, playing a German infiltrator who went unsuspected. Also that year, Akins gave a memorable performance as the head of an Irish immigrant family in The Big Valley ("The Brawlers").

Before his signature character Sheriff Lobo, Akins appeared as owner-operator trucker Sonny Pruitt in NBC's Movin' On, from 1974 to 1976 with Frank Converse. Akins starred in over 40 episodes of Movin'On plus a made-for-TV movie "In Tandem." He also starred as a Nashville police detective named Stoney Huff, in a short-lived hour-long crime drama (cancelled after four episodes) in April 1977 called Nashville 99, which also starred Jerry Reed and Charley Pride. Akins' best-known role of Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo had begun as a recurring character on the television series B.J. and the Bear. Sheriff Lobo constantly harassed and tried to jail B.J. for anything he could think of due to his hatred for him. This was due to B.J.'s constant interruptions and meddling which always ruined Lobo's plans and schemes. Lobo's popularity ended up garnering him his own show with the pilot episode actually airing on BJ and the Bear in the episode entitled "Lobo". He also played the owner of a small airstrip in the short-lived 1984 series The Master (episode title "Max") with Lee Van Cleef and Demi Moore. On 7 October 1984 (in "Deadly Lady," the second episode of Murder, She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury), Akins was introduced as Jessica Fletcher's fisherman friend Ethan Cragg, a recurring character who (unlike Tom Bosley's Sheriff Amos Tupper, introduced in the same episode) never reappeared after the popular show's first season. After becoming a recognizable name in the late 1970s, Akins did testimonial TV commercials for PoliGrip, Rollins Truck Leasing and AAMCO Transmissions. In the Heat of the Night was his last TV role in 1991, where he played a kidnapper and was killed by Lonnie Jamison and Bubba Skinner.

Akins found work in the late 1980s lending his inimitable voice talents to the work safety instructional video series, Safety Shorts, in which he expounded the virtues of workplace safety to thousands of industrial employees, offering lessons on the importance of lockout/tagout procedures, personal protective equipment, and the MSDS documentation process. Akins also made a golfing video with Ron Masak titled, Tom Kite and Friends.

Death[edit | edit source]

Akins died of cancer in Pasadena, California, on January 27, 1994.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

The Claude Akins Memorial Golf Classic, a 6-person scramble-format golf tournament, takes place at Otis Park Golf Course in Bedford, Indiana, in August or September of each year. Proceeds from the event go to the Akins Scholarship and the Bedford Recreation Foundation Scholarship, given every year to a graduating senior at Bedford North Lawrence High School, as well as many projects involving recreation and improvements. Such projects have included Special Olympics, playground equipment, the junior golf program, Boys and Girls Clubs and city parks.

Partial filmography[edit | edit source]

Television[edit | edit source]

  • Dragnet - episode "The Big Drink" - Ellis (1954)
  • Dragnet - episode "The Big Mistress" - Sgt. Jack McCreadie (1954)
  • Gunsmoke - 10 episodes - various (1955-1972)
  • The Adventures of Superman - episode "Peril by Sea" - Ace Miller (1956)
  • The Adventures of Jim Bowie - episode "Land Jumpers -Manion" - a settler (1956)
  • Sheriff of Cochise - episode "Manhunt" - Harry Clegg (1957)
  • Have Gun – Will Travel - episode "The Great Mojave Case" - Dever (1957)
  • The Adventures of McGraw - episode "Mojave" - Jim Bennett (1957)
  • Wagon Train - episode "The John Cameron Story" - Rich Tacker (1957)
  • Tales of Wells Fargo - 5 episodes - various (1957–1961)
  • I Love Lucy - episode "Desert Island" - (1956)
  • Cheyenne - episode "The Long Search" - Sheriff Bob Walters (1958)
  • Wagon Train - episode "The Monty Britton Story" - Garth Redmond (1958)
  • The Adventures of Jim Bowie - episode "A Grave for Jim Bowie" - Miciah "Big" Hart (1958)
  • Maverick - episode "Burial Ground of the Gods" - Paisley Briggs (1958)
  • The Rifleman - episode "The Safe Guard" - Floyd Doniger (1958)
  • Yancy Derringer - episodes "Gallatin Street" and "Collectors Item" - Toby Cook (1958-1959)
  • 77 Sunset Strip - episode "Lovely Alibi" - Ed Bird (1959) [6]
  • Bat Masterson - episode "The Death of Bat Masterson" - Jack Fontana (1959)
  • Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre - episode "Ransom" - "Simmy" the Comanchero (1960)
  • Laramie - episode "Death Wind", s1 ep20 - Sgt. Maj. Tom Cole (1960)
  • Pony Express - episode "The Story of Juiesberg" (1960)
  • Overland Trail - episode "Fire in the Hole" - Jumbo (1960)
  • Wanted: Dead or Alive - episode "Prison Trail" - Jack Kelly (1960)
  • Wagon Train - episode "The Roger Bigelow Story" - Wes Varney (1960)
  • Riverboat - episode "Duel on the River" - Beaudry Rawlins (1960)
  • Bonanza - episode "The Mill" - Ezeikel (1960), Sam Hill Season 2, Episode 34
  • The Twilight Zone - episodes "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" as Steve Brand (1960) and "The Little People" as Commander Fletcher (1962)
  • Wagon Train - episode "The Selena Hartnell Story" - Will Cotrell (1961)
  • Laramie - 4 episodes - various (1960-1963)
  • The Fugitive - Season 1 Episode 27 - Ralph Simmons (1964)
  • The F.B.I. - episode "How to Murder an Iron Horse" - Ben Gambriella (1965)
  • The Big Valley - "The Brawlers" - (1965)
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - "The Very Important Zombie Affair" - El Supremo (1965)
  • A Man Called Shenandoah - episode "Obion-1866" - Frody Brown (1965)
  • Branded - episode "Vindicator" - Ned Travis (1965)
  • Laredo - episodes "Limit of the Law", "The Treasure of San Diablo", "Hey Diddle Diddle", "A Question of Guilt", and "Walk Softly" - Cotton BuckMeister (1966–1967)
  • The Guns of Will Sonnett - episode "Ride the Long Trail" - Turnbaugh (1967)
  • Hondo - episode "Hondo and The Gladiators" - Brock (1967)
  • The Lucy Show - episode "Lucy Meets the Law" (1967)
  • The F.B.I. - episode "Dark Journey" - Jason Peale (1972)
  • McMillan & Wife - episode "The Face of Murder" - Freddie O'Neal (1972)
  • The Rookies - episode "Margin For Error" - Officer Buck Sanborn (1972)
  • The Streets of San Francisco - episode "A String of Puppets" - Bob Mason (1972)
  • Cannon - episode 3x05, "Target in the Mirror" - Lt. Bill Blaine (1973)
  • Barnaby Jones - episode "Murder-Go-Round" - Eli Rile (1973)
  • Mission: Impossible - episode "Speed" - Sam Hibbling (1973)
  • Police Story - 3 episodes - various (1973-1978)
  • In Tandem - TV movie (pilot for Movin' On) - Sonny Pruitt (1974)
  • Movin' On - 45 episodes - Sonny Pruitt (1974–1976)
  • McCloud - episode "The Colorado Cattle Caper" (1974)
  • Mannix - episode "Mask for a Charade" - Sgt. Al Reardon (1974)
  • B. J. and the Bear - at least 5 episodes - Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo (1978–1979)
  • The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo - 38 episodes - Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo - (1978–1979)
  • Concrete Cowboys - episode "Concrete Cowboys" - Woody Stone (1979)
  • Fantasy Island - episode "Lillian Russell/The Lagoon" - Calvin Pearson (1981)
  • Darkroom - episode "Uncle George" - Bert Haskell (1981)
  • Murder, She Wrote - 4 episodes - Ethan Cragg (1984)
  • Tall Tales & Legends - episode "Pecos Bill" - Grandpa/Narrator (1986)
  • Matlock - episode "The Thoroughbred" - Sam Taylor (1989)
  • In the Heat of the Night - episode "An Eye for An Eye" - Benjamin Sloan (1991)

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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