On April 7th, 1928, James Scott Bumgarner was born in Norman, Oklahoma. On July 19th, 2014, he passed away in Los Angeles, California due to natural causes. With the story of his life complete, we now can look back on 60 years of work in front of the camera. And it wasn’t as though he was “that guy who’s in a lot of stuff, but I can’t remember exactly what.” He starred in films and television series such as Maverick (both versions), The Great Escape, Grand Prix, The Rockford Files, Victor Victoria, Murphy’s Romance, Space Cowboys, and The Notebook…and that’s barely examining the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
As a quick FYI, for those of you who are into comics–and I’m sure that would be most of you if you’re reading my article on ComicBooked.com–his final performance was as the wizard, Shazam, in 2010’s Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam.
While he never won an Academy Award or Emmy for his myriad of performances, he was inducted in the Television Hall of Fame in 1990 and was honored with the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In 2006, his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma unveiled a 10-foot bronze statue of him as Bret Maverick. Fortunately, Garner was present at the ceremony and got to accept the kind of honor that most people in his shoes don’t get to during their lives.
To take a brief look at Garner simply as himself, he married Lois Fleishman Clarke in 1956 only 14 days after they had met each other, raised two daughters [Kim and Greta] and remained married until his death less than one month before their 58th wedding anniversary. When he wasn’t acting, he was an avid auto racer and golfer, a strong supporter of the Democratic Party, a recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letter from the University of Oklahoma and a member of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington.
While it should seemingly go without saying, any of us would be beyond blessed if our lives amounted to a fraction of what James’ did. He lived the kind of life that is worth living, and thanks to the innovation of film, we’re forever allowed to be reminded of how great our lives can be.