"Welcome to The McCain Ranch"
January 21, 1963
HOLLYWOOD (AP) ― Actor Chuck Connors and a
friend were riding alone Sunset Boulevard Tuesday when
who should run into them but the law.
Connors, 40, was in a car driven by Joseph Higgins, 37.
It was struck broadside by a police car making a turn
onto Sunset. No one was injured.
Boy I bet those two got a good laugh out of this!
'Sheriff' Higgins Riding High
Hollywood (UPI) --
The squat sheriff in his trooper hat, steel rimmed dark glasses and
khakis narrows his eyes and says "You inna heap o trouble boy."And right
away the viewer wants to punch this drawling symbol of rural authority
right in the mouth. You figure somebody had to drain a southern school
to come up with a stereotyped redneck to play the role of 'J. W'., the
abrasive minion of the law in the old Dodge commercials.
But Joe Higgins, who did the blurbs for six years, is a good ol' Ohio
boy who earned a master's degree at Scotland's University of Edinburgh
in social psychology and is a former are faster at the University of
Dayton. Half Irish, half Jewish, Higgins is 100% ham. He is also a man
of many surprising parts. Among other things he is a Brevet Major
General in the Air National Guard. And while he is not much of a
military man, the title does outrank an admiral in the Swiss Navy
Higgins also is a member of the Jet Pioneer Society, the American
Fighter Pilots Association and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
Though he's quit selling cars on the tube to become a TV spokesman for
General Electric, Higgins will go to his grave as a Southern sheriff
which, he acknowledges, is a testimonial to his acting talents. The high
point of his life was visiting Helen Hayes backstage in New York where
he was introduced to the beloved actress. Higgins becomes almost misty
eyed when he relates their meeting.
"I told Miss. Hayes it was a great honor to meet her". Higgins said.
"She was really delighted to see me and said," 'J. W. was one of the
finest acting performances she had ever seen'. Then she asked Higgins to
hit her with his catchphrase line. "You inna heap o' trouble boy." But
the rotund character man couldn't bring himself to do it. He praised her
in a southern accent and let it go at that.
Higgins is a man of many voices. Dozens. Several times a year he
lectures on dialects for drama classes at a San Fernando Valley College.
"I almost lost out on playing J.W. because the producers insisted on
using an authentic Southern accent". Higgins recalled, "When I went in
for my reading, I came on strong from the beginning with a deep South
dialect". "The minute I opened my mouth they said, 'you're the guy".
As a result of his J.W. characterizations, Higgins has become the
darling of law enforcement officials throughout the country. He is so
closely associated with the constabulary that he lectures on highway
safety and conducts classes in safe driving at U.S. Air Force bases. One
of these days one suspects Higgins will arrest a speeder just for the
hell of it.
"I was elected National Safety Sheriff by 3,200 Sheriff's of the
National Sheriffs Association representing all 50 states", he said.
"It's strictly honorary but I'm also an advisor to the Association". I
have the finest badge collection in the world today. I've worked with
643 police and sheriffs departments all across the nation. And I've been
sworn in to more than 400 departments as a legitimate deputy.
Higgins whipped out his wallet on which he had pinned a gold star issued
by a Northern California hamlet attesting Higgins' deputization. "As one
of a team I helped write the United States Air Force safe driving
course", he said. "I am a pilot but not a military pilot. I became a
bevel major general because I'm an educator. "In truth, I've been an
actor all my life. I founded the theater arts department at the
University of Dayton after the Second World War
"When I moved to California in 1952 I just wanted to live in the San
Fernando Valley, raise kids and work at my craft, and that's what I've
been doing. I've worked in television, movies and in the theater. I've
done a lot of television commercials, but there's no doubt that I became
an immediate national figure with J. W. Those commercials made me
"I just finished a two part Disney television movie and I'm going to
play Wallace Beery in "Rainbow", the TV movie biography of Judy Garland.
J.W. made such a strong impression that people forget I had a running
role in the "Rifleman" with Chuck Connors for five years. I played the
village blacksmith, I was also a regular in the "Arrest and Trial"
series, playing the owner of the bar and grill.
Higgins said he travels a quarter million miles a year for General
Electric doing industrial films, TV commercials and giving speeches for
civic, educational and industrial groups. Now he is a partner in FMS
Productions and looking forward to becoming a power behind the camera
thanks to good ol' J. W.
*Evansville....."this ones for you Jeff!"
In November, 1962, Chuck Connors was the featured guest star as The
Rifleman at the Hadi Shrine Circus in Evansville which ran 4 days with 8
shows. I had just turned 6 years old but I remember it like it was
Also, Joe Higgins who played Nils, lived in Evansville in 1955-56 and
was the Assistant Manager at the Hotel McCurdy in downtown Evansville.
around The McCain Ranch