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Garner wasn’t in love with Hollywood, viewing acting as a means to make a living. But in 1957, he got his big break starring as card shark Bret Maverick. Garner was on the show for three years until a contract dispute forced him out. Later, he starred in The Rockford Files, which lasted six seasons from 1974-1980. He won an Emmy as Best Actor for the show in 1977. Garner and other prominent White actors like Marlon Brando attended the March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

Actor Harry Belafonte was the one who reportedly urged Garner to join the march. Hollywood was inspired to take action and get involved in the March after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a contingent of actors and actresses at Burt Lancaster’s home. In his 2011 book, The Garner Files: A Memoir, Garner refers to himself as a “bleeding heart liberal,” and slammed actor Charlton Heston, who switched from being a leader of the liberal Hollywood stars that marched in Washington in 1963 to becoming an ardent supporter of Republican politics.

Though he’s best known for his TV roles, including his famous Polaroid commercials with actress Mariette Hartley, (the two had so much onscreen chemistry people thought tthey were married in real life.) Garner also appeared in several movies, including Victor/Victoria and Murphy’s Romance, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

One his most popular roles was as a devoted husband in the beloved 2004 movie The Notebook.

In 2005, Garner was awarded the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2010, the Television Critics Association gave Garner its annual Career Achievement Award. Garner is survived by his wife of 58 years, Lois, and his daughters Gigi and Kimberley.

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Little Known Black History Fact: James Garner  was originally published on

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