Those who were grown up enough to have watched B.J and the Bear would certainly know Claude Akins. Claude, who starred as Sheriff Lobo on the comedy show, was a legendary American actor popular for his powerful deep voice and broad stature. His heavy and rugged persona was one that usually suits his variety of roles that range from a sneering villain to that of a no-nonsense officer. Akins would go on to star on the series’ spin-off The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo – which is based on his character. The highly skilled actor has, however, been off the screens for over two decades, leaving many of his fans wondering what became of him.
His Short Bio
Claude Akins was born on May 25, 1926, in Nelson, Georgia, United States. His middle name is Marion. He grew up in Bedford, Indiana, with his parents, Anna Maude and Ernest Akins, and elder sister, Hazel. His father was a policeman and former stone-cutter. Claude developed his talent in acting from childhood, making his first performance in a church play wherein he portrayed a bird.
Prior to completing his university education, Akins served in the Second World War with the United States Army Signal Corps in the Philippines and Burma. He subsequently graduated with a degree in Speech and Theater from the Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois in 1949. Following this, Akins studied at the Barter Theater, Abingdon, Virginia. There, he trained in Classical Shakespeare before going into professional acting.
Despite his long-spanning career, as well as enormous acting roles, Claude Akins was not recognized and honored in Hollywood like his counterparts who achieved such feats. The talented actor once bemoaned being elusive and like an outsider in the mainstream filming industry.
Although he collected no major award for his contributions to the film industry, Akins received a lasting memorial. Bedford holds an annual golf tournament tagged “The Claude Akins Memorial Golf Classic” in honor of the fallen actor. It is a six-person scramble-format fundraising game that holds at Otis Park Golf Course every August/September. Proceeds from the tournament go to Akins Scholarship and Bedford Recreation Foundation Scholarship.
What Happened To Claude Akins of B. J. and the Bear
Claude Akins disappeared from the scenes in the early 1990s, after playing Detective Lucky Douglas in Twisted Fear, released in 1994. Claude played the role before sickness and ultimately, death came knocking.
In his over four-decade career, Akins featured in more than 150 works which cut across theater, film, television, and voice. Claude started his career in the late 1940s with Broadway, making his stage debut in The Rose Tattoo. He later joined Hollywood in the early 1950s, making his first (uncredited) movie appearance in From Here to Eternity (1953). The next year, Akins played his first credited film role in Bitter Creek.
Following this, Akins featured in several successful movies such as The Caine Mutiny (1954), Gunsmoke (1955), The Defiant Ones (1958), Inherit the Wind (1960), How The West Was Won (1962), and The Killers (1964). From 1974 to 1976, he co-starred with Frank Converse in Movin’ On. The highly received TV series centers on Claude and Frank who respectively played gypsy truck drivers Sony Pruitt and Will Chandler.
Other notable theater movies, films and television films/series Claude featured in are Bonanza (1960), Merrill’s Marauders (1962), The Night Stalker (1972), The Norliss Tapes (1973), Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), Cannon (1973), Police Story (1973-1978), Mannix (1974), and The Streets of San Francisco (1974), among numerous others.
Akins’ last years acting roles include Benjamin Sloan in “An Eye for an Eye” episode of In the Heat of the Night (1991); President Theodore Roosevelt in the television film, The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991), Speck Parks in Falling from Grace (1992), and Pastor William Clay in Seasons of the Heart (1993).
When And How Did Claude Akins Die?
Claude Akins died on the 27th day of January 1994 in Altadena, California, United States. Claude succumbed to death after about a year-long battle with stomach cancer, aged 67. In May 1993, Akins underwent a surgery that saw doctors remove half of his stomach in the fight against cancer. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up a lasting solution.
Claude Akins was survived by his wife, children, and grandchildren. He married Theresa Fairfield in 1952. With Theresa, he had three children namely: Claude Marion Jr., Michele, and Wendy Akins. Akin’s widow, Theresa Fairfield (b. 1929) later died in 2006, twelve years after her husband’s demise.