Born James Bumgarner in Norman, Oklahoma, James Garner became a merchant seaman before moving to Los Angeles to work at his father's carpeting business, before serving in the Korean War, where he earned the Purple Heart before his discharge in 1952. After studying business administration at the University of Oklahoma for a semester, he returned to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.
After landing small roles in the TV series Cheyenne, James Garner landed a contract at Warner Bros. at $200 a week, where he had a number of supporting roles before his breakout performance in Sayonara alongside Marlon Brando. That lead to his first starring role in Darby's Rangers after Charlton Heston walked off of the production.
In 1957, he starred as Bret Maverick in the hit TV series Maverick which launched him into stardom. While the story was initially set to alternate between Maverick and his brother, played by Jack Kelly, Bret quickly became the main focal point of the show. He stayed with the show until 1960, where he won a Golden Globe and secured his first Emmy nomination. The actor also sued Warner Bros. for breach of contract in 1960, which he won, enabling him to pursue other endeavors.
He secured roles in The Great Escape, The Thrill of It All, Move Over, Darling, Duel at Diablo, Grand Prix, Hour of the Gun, Support Your Local Sheriff! and Marlowe before landing his iconic role as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. The series ran from 1971 to 1980, earning him his first Emmy win and four other nominations.
Most recently, the actor starred in films such as The Notebook, Battle for Terra and the ABC series 8 Simple Rules... for Dating My Teenage Daughter. He is survived by his wife, Lois Clarke, who he was married to since 1956, daughter Greta 'Gigi' Garner and an adopted daughter, Kimberly from Lois' first marriage.