Mike Henry, best known for his roles as Tarzan in three feature films and Sheriff Bufford T. Justice’s son in three Smokey and the Bandit movies has died. Henry died at age 84 on January 8th, from chronic traumatic encephalopathy after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Henry was a standout linebacker at USC and went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1958 – 1961) and the Los Angeles Rams (1962 – 1964). Henry had played a few minor roles prior to his retirement from football and in 1966 he got the lead as Tarzan in three feature films.
After playing Tarzan, Henry alternated between guest spots on television and co-starring roles in feature films. Mike Henry appeared in an episode of Burt Reynold’s series, Dan August and also had a role in Reynold’s feature film, The Longest Yard. Henry also appeared twice in Charlton Heston films (Soylent Green and Skyjacked) and twice in John Wayne movies (The Green Berets and Rio Lobo). Most fans may know Henry best as Jackie Gleason’s sidekick in three Smokey and the Bandit films where Henry played Sheriff Bufford T. Justice’s dimwit son, Junior Justice.
I first saw Henry in his Tarzan trilogy which was a new take on the King of the Jungle. Now Tarzan was an educated, almost James Bond type character. It was a shocking change, but one that was interesting. Henry definitely had the physique to play Tarzan. After the three films, Henry was offered the chance to play Tarzan in the television series that was being developed, but he declined.
In 1988, Henry was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and he retired from acting.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike Henry’s family, friends and fans.