Character actor James Hampton, a working actor since the 1960s with credits ranging from Teen Wolf to The Longest Yard, has passed away at the age of 84. News of Hampton’s passing was confirmed online by family. Host Randy West wrote an extended obituary for Hampton on Facebook, confirming he passed today after “a long bout with the degenerative disease Lewy Body Dementia in which protein deposits on nerve cells in the brain affect thinking, memory and movement.” Hampton is survived by his wife Mary Deese, son Jim and daughter Andrea, and three grandchildren. We send our deepest regards to his family and friends during this time.
Born in Oklahoma City, Hampton got his start in acting on the stage, resulting in an extended friendship with actor Burt Reynolds with whom he would collaborate on the big screen (like the original The Longest Yard) and on television (the hit series Evening Shade). His first TV work came in the 1960s and quickly turned into appearances on popualr shows like F Troop, Rawhide, and Gunsmoke. Other shows that Hampton appeared in over the years included The Dukes of Hazzard, Murder, She Wrote, Punky Brewster, Days of Our Lives, and Full House. He would recount his life in an autobiography titled What? And Give Up Show Business which was released just last year.
To ’80s kids Hampton was perhaps best known for playing the part of Harold Howard in Teen Wolf, the father to Michael J. Fox’s Scott Howard. Hampton had the important task of explaining the werewolf rules to his on-screen son in the movie, even appearing in wolf make-up himself. He would go on to reprise the part in the animated TV series and even in Teen Wolf Too.
Much like his Teen Wolf co-star, Hampton stepped away from public life and work as an actor after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Speaking in an interview with KRLD Radio last year Hampton’s wife Mary Deese Hampton said: “He said to me one day ‘I want people to remember me for the smile. I want people to think about me in their favorite movie or their favorite TV show.’ So he chose to step back.”
In addition to appearing in front of the camera Hampton also worked behind it, turning to directing sitcoms in the 1990s including multiple episodes of the popular Disney Channel Original Series Smart Guy and ABC’s Sister, Sister.