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James Garner, TV legend from 'Maverick' and 'Rockford Files,' dies

James Garner, the rugged leading man who charmed generations of audiences with his roles in Maverick, The Rockford Files, and The Notebook, died of natural causes on Saturday night in Los Angeles, according to TMZ and the Associated Press. The Emmy winner—and 14-time nominee—had suffered a stroke in 2008 and was 86.

The persona he first projected in Maverick in 1957—handsome, charming, genial, a bit of a rogue, mostly a mensch—established Garner as America’s leading television actor. Born James Scott Baumgarner in Norman, Okla., in 1928, he survived an upbringing that was at best knockaround and often, at the hands of a cruel stepmother, abusive. “By the time I was 14, I’d become an independent little bastard,” he says. “Nobody was going to tell me what to do.” The attitude ebbed; the independence remained. As a young man, he played football, migrated to California, flunked out of Hollywood High, spent a semester at the University of Oklahoma, served in the Merchant Marines, won two Purple Hearts in Korea, modeled Jantzen swimsuits, and eventually fell into acting.

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