Clifton James, the swaggering Southern sheriff in two James Bond movies, dies at 96

Clifton James, best known for his indelible portrayal of a Southern sheriff in two James Bond films but who was most proud of his work on the stage, has died at the age of 96.

James died Saturday in Gladstone, Ore., due to complications from diabetes, his daughter Lynn James said.

"He was the most outgoing person, beloved by everybody," the daughter said. "I don't think the man had an enemy. We were incredibly blessed to have had him in our lives."

James often played a convincing Southerner but loved working on the stage in New York during the prime of his career.

One of his first significant roles playing a Southerner was as a cigar-chomping, prison floor-walker in the 1967 classic "Cool Hand Luke."

His long list of roles also includes swaggering, tobacco-spitting Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper in the Bond films.

His portrayal of the redneck sheriff in "Live and Let Die" in 1973 more than held its own with sophisticated English actor Roger Moore's portrayal of Bond.

James was such a hit that writers carved a role for him in the next Bond film, "The Man With the Golden Gun," in 1974. James, this time playing the same sheriff on vacation in Thailand and the epitome of the ugly American abroad, gets pushed into the water by a baby elephant.

"He wasn't supposed to actually go in," said his daughter. "They gave him sugar in his pocket to feed the elephant. But he wasn't giving it to the elephant fast enough."

She said her father met with real Southern sheriffs to prepare for his role as Pepper. Of his hundreds of roles, it was the Louisiana sheriff that people most often recognized and approached him about.

His daughter noted that her father sometimes said actors get remembered for one particular role out of hundreds.

"His is the sheriff's, but he said he would have never picked that one," she said.

George Clifton James was born May 29, 1920, in Spokane, Wash., the oldest of five siblings and the only boy. The family lost all its money at the start of the Great Depression and moved to Gladstone, just outside Portland, Ore., where James' maternal grandparents lived.

In the 1930s, James got work with the Civilian Conservation Corps and then entered World War II in 1942 as a soldier with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific, receiving two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.

Lynn James said one of the Purple Hearts came when a bullet pierced his helmet and zipped around the inside to come out and split his nose. The second Purple Heart, she said, came from shrapnel that knocked out many of his teeth.

After the war, James took classes at the University of Oregon and acted in plays. Inspired, he moved to New York and launched his acting career.

Later in life, he spent the fall and spring of each year in New York. In the winter, he lived in Delray Beach, Fla. During the summer he lived in Oregon.

James' wife, Laurie, died in 2015. He is survived by two sisters, five children, 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Clifton James was best known for his portrayal of a Southern sheriff in two James Bond films but was most proud of his work on the stage. (Lynn James / Associated Press)


Clifton James, Who Played a Sheriff in 2 Bond Films, Dies at 96

Clifton James, who was best known for his portrayal of a Southern sheriff in two James Bond films, died on Saturday at the home of one of his daughters in Gladstone, Ore. He was 96.

The cause was complications of diabetes, his daughter Lynn James said. (He died at another daughter’s home.)

Though he was born and raised in the Northwest, Mr. James often played a convincing Southerner, notably as a cigar-chomping prison floorwalker in the 1967 Paul Newman film “Cool Hand Luke.”

His portrayal of the Louisiana Sheriff J. W. Pepper in the 1973 Bond film “Live and Let Die” more than held its own with Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond.

Mr. James was such a hit that writers created a role for him in the next Bond film, “The Man With the Golden Gun,” in 1974. Mr. James played the same sheriff, this time on vacation in Thailand.

He appeared often on television, and had recurring roles on “Dallas,” “Gunsmoke” and “Lewis & Clark.” He also played a sheriff on “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Ms. James said her father had met with real Southern sheriffs to prepare for his role in the Bond films.

George Clifton James was born May 29, 1920, in Spokane, Wash. The family later moved to Gladstone, just outside Portland, Ore.

In the 1930s, Mr. James got work with the Civilian Conservation Corps and served in the Army in World War II, receiving two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.

After the war he took classes at the University of Oregon and acted in plays. Inspired, he moved to New York and began his acting career.

Mr. James’s wife, Laurie, died in 2015. Besides his daughter Lynn, he is survived by two sisters, four other children, 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.


James Bond actor Clifton James dies at 96

Actor Clifton James, who appeared as Sheriff JW Pepper in two James Bond films, has died at the age of 96.
He died close to his childhood home in Gladstone, Oregon, on Saturday due to complications from diabetes.
James was best known for appearing alongside Sir Roger Moore in the Bond films Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun during the 1970s.

His daughter Lynn said: "He was the most outgoing person, beloved by everybody."

She added: "I don't think the man had an enemy. We were incredibly blessed to have had him in our lives."

In 1973 James played Louisiana sheriff JW Pepper in Live and Let Die, in which he made a memorable appearance in a chaotic boat chase sequence.

His character proved so popular he was asked to reprise the role in 1974's The Man with the Golden Gun, involving another car chase, in Thailand, and a scene where he gets pushed into water by a baby elephant.

Paying tribute on Twitter, Sir Roger wrote: "Terribly sad to hear Clifton James has left us. As JW Pepper he gave my first two Bond films a great, fun character."

You only appear twice
While many James Bond characters either feature once or have recurring roles in the series, Sherriff Pepper is among a select few characters to have featured in just two different titles.

Here are four others:
Sylvia Trench: A love interest of Bond played by Eunice Gayson. She appeared alongside Sir Sean Connery in the 1962 film Dr No, as well as 1963's From Russia with Love.

Jaws: One of Bond's most famous villains, Jaws was played by the late Richard Kiel. The character appeared with Sir Roger Moore in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me and later in 1979's Moonraker.

Valentin Zukovsky: An ex-KGB agent turned Russian mafia head who was portrayed by Robbie Coltrane. He featured with Pierce Brosnan in the 1995 film GoldenEye and 1999's The World is Not Enough.

Rene Mathis: A French intelligence operative played by Giancarlo Giannini. He appeared alongside Daniel Craig in the 2006 film Casino Royale and 2008's Quantum of Solace.

James grew up just outside Portland during the heart of the Great Depression, in which his family lost all their money.

He served as a soldier with the US Army in the South Pacific during World War Two, for which he was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze star.

His acting career spanned five decades and included stints on stage, TV and film.

Other credits include appearing in the TV series Dallas and films Superman II and The Bonfire of the Vanities.

His last film credit was a 2006 comedy, Raising Flagg but he had also been cast to star in an upcoming independent film called Old Soldiers, according to IMDB.

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