Akins was born in Nelson, Georgia, and grew up in Bedford, Indiana. He served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in World War II in Burma and the Philippines. After the war, he was a 1949 graduate of Northwestern University, where he studied Theatre and became a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. As a film actor, Akins first appeared in 1953’s From Here to Eternity. He appeared as a seaman and shipmate of Lee Marvin in the 1954 The Caine Mutiny. He portrayed prisoner Joe Burdette in Rio Bravo (starring John Wayne, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, and Angie Dickinson), Naval Lt. Commander Farber in Don’t Give Up the Ship (starring Jerry Lewis), Sgt Kolowicz in Merrill’s Marauders, Rockwell W. “Rocky” Rockman in The Devil’s Brigade, the Reverend Jeremiah Brown in the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind, outlaw Ben Lane in Comanche Station that same year, Seely Jones in A Distant Trumpet (1964), and the gorilla leader Aldo in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the last original Apes movie in 1973. He had a tiny part in the movie The Sea Chase with John Wayne. He appeared with Yul Brynner and Robert Fuller in the film Return of the Seven (1966) (also called Return of the Magnificent Seven and The Magnificent Seven 2), and also appeared in the 1993 movie Seasons of the Heart.
Akins was cast in a large number of television series, including The Adventures of Superman (episode number 69, “Peril by Sea”), in which he plays a villainous conspirator, Crusader, and I Love Lucy. Much of his work was on westerns, including Frontier, My Friend Flicka (three times), Boots and Saddles, Northwest Passage, The Restless Gun (four times), Sheriff of Cochise, Wagon Train (four times), Overland Trail, Frontier Circus, The Tall Man, The Rebel, The Big Valley, Daniel Boone, The Legend of Jesse James, Death Valley Days, Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre (four times), The Rifleman (three times), Rawhide, Gunsmoke (10 times), Bonanza (four times), The Alaskans (twice), and The Texan (twice). He appeared once on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Empire, Laredo (“The Treasure of San Diablo”), the syndicated series, Pony Express (in “The Story of Julesburg” with Sebastian Cabot and James Best), and The Oregon Trail, with Rod Taylor. He was cast as Jarret Sutton in “Escape to Memphis” (1959) and as Beaudry Rawlins in “Duel on the River” (1960) in Darren McGavin’s NBC series, Riverboat. Akins played a rodeo clown who commits murder in “Killer on Horseback,” an episode of the NBC anthology series Star Stage, which became the pilot episode for the syndicated police drama State Trooper, starring Rod Cameron. The episode was later broadcast on the regular series as “Rodeo Rough House.” Beverly Garland also appeared in the episode as Nellie Austin, a sharpshooter. Akins and Garland much later appeared together in the 1963 episode “The Chooser of the Slain” on the ABC/Warner Bros. western series, The Dakotas.
Among Akins’ four appearances on NBC’s Laramie with series stars John Smith and Robert Fuller was the role of former Sheriff Jim Dark in the episode “Queen of Diamonds” (September 20, 1960), with Julie London as Dark’s estranged wife, a card dealer using the name “June Brown.” Dark had foiled a robbery by the Reeves brothers, one of whom was killed, but his right hand was severely injured, and he could no longer handle a gun. June avoided her husband for his own protection when the outlaw brothers pursued them. Clem Reeves was portrayed by Tony Young, later cast as “Cord” in the short-lived Gunslinger series on CBS. Ultimately, the gang was captured, and the Darks were reconciled, leaving Laramie by stagecoach. Akins was featured in three episodes of the original CBS series The Twilight Zone (i.e., “The Little People”, “The Thirty-Fathom Grave” and “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”). He guest-starred in three episodes each of Combat! (4th and 5th seasons) and The Untouchables. He appeared on Rod Cameron’s early syndicated series, City Detective, Meet McGraw with Frank Lovejoy, the ABC/WB drama, The Roaring 20’s, and Police Story. In 1960, he and Marty Ingels appeared as themselves in the episode “Amateur Night” in NBC’s short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier; the show was set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood.
Akins’ other early appearances included a role as a policeman on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in “Place of Shadows” (1956) and “Reward to Finder” (1957). Akins played another television cop, good-natured Sheriff’s Detective Phillip Dix, in the first season of the Perry Mason in “The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife” (Episode 1-26) that aired March 15, 1958. He was in a first season episode of Maverick titled “Burial Ground of the Gods” (1958) that starred Jack Kelly. In 1965 Akins played El Supremo in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” episode, The Very Important Zombie Affair. In 1967 Akins played Lt. Finch in The Lucy Show episode, “Lucy Meets the Law,” as he interrogates Lucy as a grand larceny suspect. Lucy is eventually cleared of the crime when the actual redhead confesses to it. Akins was cast as Lou Myerson in the 1964 episode, “One Monday Afternoon”, of the NBC education drama series, Mr. Novak, starring James Franciscus and as Dr. Roy Kirk in an episode of the CBS Political Drama, Slattery’s people, (Which starred Richard Crenna.) “When Do they Hang The Good Samaritan?” Dr. Kirk’s sister Lucrezia was played by Barbara Eden. In 1965, he was featured in an episode of Kraft Suspense Theater, playing a German infiltrator who went unsuspected (despite Akins’ Native American ancestry.) Also that year, Akins gave a memorable performance as the head of an Irish immigrant family in The Big Valley (“The Brawlers”).
Before his signature character Sheriff Lobo, Akins appeared as owner-operator trucker Sonny Pruitt in NBC’s Movin’ On, from 1974 to 1976 with Frank Converse. Akins starred in over 40 episodes of Movin’On plus a made for TV movie “In Tandem.” He also starred, as a Nashville Police detective named Stoney Huff and also starring Jerry Reed and Charlie Pride, in a short-lived hour-long crime drama (cancelled after four episodes) in April, 1977 called Nashville 99. Akins’ best-known role of Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo had begun as a recurring character on the TV show B.J. and the Bear. Sheriff Lobo constantly harassed and tried to jail BJ for anything he could think of due to his hatred for him. This was due to B.J.’s constant interruptions and meddling which always ruined Lobo’s plans and schemes. Lobo’s popularity ended up garnering him his own show with the pilot episode actually airing on BJ and the Bear in the episode entitled “Lobo.” He also played the owner of a small airstrip in the short-lived 1984 series The Master (episode title “Max”) with Lee Van Cleef and Demi Moore. On 7 October 1984 (in “Deadly Lady,” the second episode of “Murder, She Wrote,” starring Angela Lansbury), Akins was introduced as Jessica Fletcher’s fisherman friend Ethan Cragg, a recurring character who (unlike Tom Bosley’s Sheriff Amos Tupper, introduced in the same episode) never reappeared after the popular show’s first season. After becoming a recognizable name in the late 1970s, Akins did testimonial TV commercials for PoliGrip, Rollins Truck Leasing and AAMCO Transmissions. In the Heat of the Night was his last TV role in 1991, where he played a kidnapper and was killed by Lonnie Jamison and Bubba Skinner. Akins found work in the late 1980s lending his inimitable voice talents to the work safety instructional video series, Safety Shorts, in which he expounded the virtues of workplace safety to thousands of industrial employees, offering lessons on the importance of lockout/tagout procedures, personal protective equipment, and the MSDS documentation process. Akins also made a golfing video with Ron Masak titled, Tom Kite and Friends. Akins died of cancer in Altadena, California, on January 27, 1994.
- May, 25, 1926
- Nelson, Georgia
- January, 27, 1994
- Altadena, California
Cause of Death