Veteran actor James Hampton, well recognized for his various roles including starring alongside Burt Reynolds in The Longest Yard and Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf, has sadly passed away. A spokesperson speaking on behalf of the family has confirmed that Hampton died from complications of Parkinson’s disease at his Texas home on Wednesday. He was 84 years old.
“Sometimes people wonder where my sense of humor comes from,” Hampton’s cousin Teddy McMurray posted to Twitter in the wake of the news. “Well, it’s a family thing. My cousin, James Hampton, went to Heaven today. I loved having a famous actor as my cousin growing up!”
James Wade Hampton was born on July 9, 1936, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Raised in Dallas, he majored in theatre arts at the University of North Texas. After a stint with the U.S. Army that saw him performing with the USO and winning awards, Hampton relocated to New York City and picked up his first movie role in the Oscar-nominated short The Cliffdwellers. He was then cast in a lead role in a 1963 Gunsmoke episode opposite Burt Reynolds, leading a lifelong friendship and multiple collaborations.
Hampton is known for various television roles including Leroy the handyman on The Doris Day Show, Hannibal Dobbs the incompetent bugler on F Troop, publisher William Randolph Hearst in Death Valley Days, and Sheriff Buster Moon in The Dukes of Hazzard. In 2012, he had appeared in television advertisements for MeTV to promote some of the classic television episodes he had guest starred in, such as Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., and The Rockford Files.
Teaming back up with Burt Reynolds, Hampton had a role as Caretaker in the 1974 prison football movie The Longest Yard. The performance earned the actor a Golden Globe Award nomination for Most Promising Male Newcomer. He also had a large role as Harold Howard in the classic ’80s comedy Teen Wolf as the father of Michael J. Fox’s character, a role he reprised in the sequel Teen Wolf Too and the animated series adaptation.
As himself, Hampton made more than 30 appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Hampton’s other movie roles include playing Jerry Woolridge in Sling Blade, a judge in The Last Ride, and the Mayor of Miami in Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach. His final credit came in the direct-to-video movie The Association which was released in 2016.
After The Longest Yard, Hampton’s friendship with Reynolds led to new creative opportunities for Hampton. Though he continued to act, he’d also pick up gigs writing, directing, and producing on the Burt Reynolds sitcom Evening Shade. Hampton’s directing work also includes helming episodes of the popular 90s sitcom Grace Under Fire. Just one day before Hampton passed, Grace Under Fire actor Walter Olkewicz also died at the age of 72.
Hampton’s survivors include his wife, Mary; children, James, Andrea, and Frank; and his grandchildren. We send out condolences out to them at this difficult time. May he rest in peace. This news comes to us from TheWrap.