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Salute To Claude Akins


Claude Akins was born in 1926 (some sources have listed his year of birth as 1918, causing many papers to incorrectly report his age at the time of his death as 75) in Georgia, and moved to Indiana when he was young. Claude served in the military during World War II. I haven't been able to find any record of what years his army tenure covered, and can't help but wonder if he himself didn't fudge his date of birth in order to join the army before he was of age. I have no proof for this, it's pure speculation, but it would explain the confusion about his age and I know it's something had often happened during that war. After the war he went to Northwestern University where he majored in theater. 

I haven't found much about his career from his graduation in 1949 and his first movie role in 1953, but that first role was in a doozy of a movie. He had an uncredited part in From Here To Eternity with Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, and Frank Sinatra among others. While this auspicious beginning did not exactly translate into becoming a big time movie star, he did have some other notable movie appearances over the years. He was in Rio Bravo and The Caine Mutiny, two more very big movies. He was in a sequel to the Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, and (the most exciting one for me) he was General Aldo in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

Where Akins really made his mark was in television. If there was a great show on t.v. in the 50's, 60's or 70's Akins showed up on it eventually, sometimes multiple times playing multiple characters. A partial list of his T.V. appearances includes Dragnet, Adventures of Superman, I Love Lucy, Have Gun Will Travel, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (2 episodes), Perry Mason, Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, The Rifleman (3 episodes), Route 66, Wagon Train (4 episodes), The Twilight Zone (2 episodes), Bonanza (4 episodes), The Fugitive), Rawhide (7 episodes), The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Gunsmoke (10 episodes), Hazel, Love American Style, Mission Impossible, and Mannix. This is actually just a small selection of his television credits, so you can see that if you're a fan of classic t.v. you have probably seen and likely enjoyed Claude's work.

Claude had a certain hard look that made him a great choice for westerns, but he excelled in other genres as well. His episode of The Twilight Zone titled The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street is now considered on of the most classic episodes of that highly revered show.  He popped up in the made for t.v. movie The Night Stalker, which starred Darren McGavin and kicked off the Kolchak series. in 1974 he got his own show, Movin' On. But his most iconic role came in 1978 on B.J. and the Bear. He played Sheriff Lobo, and got such a good reaction that he was spun off onto his own show The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo.  He continued to act until the early 90's, passing away in 1994 having left behind an enormous body of work. There are likely very few entertainers whose work has been seen by as many people as Akins, and he was the brightest spot in every episode of every show I have seen him in. So here's to Claude Akins, one of the men who made good t.v. great. 

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