James Scott Bumgarner was born in Norman, Okla., on April 7, 1928. Although he did not come in to acting until age 25, Mr. Garner appeared in more than 50 films and countless television episodes, his career spanning more than 50 years. Mr. Garner’s first Hollywood break came when he met Richard L. Bare, a director of the television western “Cheyenne,” who cast him in a small part. That and other bit roles led to a contract with Warner Bros., which featured him in several movies and cut the first syllable from his last name. His real breakout role was the lead in the television series “Maverick,” where he played Bret Maverick, the womanizing gambler in the western that ran from 1957 to 1962. Many successful films and television roles, including “The Rockford Files,” followed.
Mr. Garner served in the Army during the Korean War — he was wounded in action twice, earning two Purple Hearts. He was a lifelong Democrat who was active in behalf of civil rights and environmental causes. He met his wife, the former Lois Clarke, in 1956 at a presidential campaign rally for Adlai Stevenson. She survives him, as do their daughter, Greta, known as Gigi; and Mrs. Garner’s daughter from a previous marriage, Kimberly.
Mr. Garner’s unpretentious approach to his craft set him apart from his peers. “I was never enamored of the business, never even wanted to be an actor, really,” he told The New York Times in 1984. “It’s always been a means to an end, which is to make a living.”
Contributed by MH Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney Andrea Claus.
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