In Memoriam: Burton Leon “Burt” Reynolds Jr. – 1936-2018
The entire LMC family is saddened by the loss of Burt Reynolds, a hometown hero and television, stage, and film icon. A true friend and advocate of Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Burt had a sea turtle patient named in his honor in October, 2016. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.
He was a Florida boy to the end.
Burt Reynolds, the actor, director, ‘70s superstar and Hollywood sex symbol who never forgot where he grew up, died Sept. 6 at the age of 82, his manager Erik Kritzer has confirmed.
Mr. Reynolds was the most famous celebrity to emerge from Palm Beach County. He knew it when it was a small, segregated Southern community in the ‘50s, and he saw the area grow both socially and culturally.
Mr. Reynolds’ acting career, forged from classes he took at Palm Beach Junior College, began in TV in the late 1950s. He became one of the top movie actors of the 1970s, showing his dramatic and comedic range in movies from Deliverance to The Longest Yard to Sharky’s Machine to perhaps his most beloved film, Smokey and the Bandit.
He earned an Emmy for Evening Shade, his fifth TV series, in the 1990s. And even though his film career dimmed after his Academy Award-nominated turn in Boogie Nights, he never stopped working in TV, movies, commercials — whatever paid the bills.
At the same time, Mr. Reynolds was never far from home.
At the time of his death, he lived in Hobe Sound, and over the years built a studio/ranch, a theater training company and a small museum of his movie memoribilia in Jupiter. Mr. Reynolds also filmed movies and his TV series B.L. Stryker here.
Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1936. His father, Burt Sr., enlisted in the Army in 1941, and gained a battlefield commission; he won five battle stars and a bronze star in the European theater.
Mr. Reynolds’ family moved to Riviera Beach when he was 10. Burt Sr. became a policeman in Riviera Beach and rose through the ranks until he became the police chief.
Mr. Reynolds moved through the public school system and in his sophomore year at Palm Beach High he was named first team All State and All-Southern fullback. He was a gregarious, friendly kid, widely liked by his classmates, and a frequent presence in West Palm Beach neighborhoods such as Flamingo Park.
One of his best friends was Dick Howser, the future manager of the World Series champion Kansas City Royals. In those days, Howser was known as “Peanut,” and Mr. Reynolds was known as “Buddy.”
He had a wide range of college scholarships and opted for Florida State, where he was a halfback and roomed with Lee Corso, later a notable sports broadcaster.
At this point, Mr. Reynolds’ ambition was to play pro football, but a knee injury put paid to that, as well as his football scholarship. His second choice of a career was to follow his father into police work, and Burt Sr. suggested that he finish college and become a parole officer.
Mr. Reynolds began attending Palm Beach Junior College in Lake Worth, where he attended classes taught by Watson B. Duncan III, who nudged Reynolds into trying out for the school play “Outward Bound.” Mr. Reynolds won the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for his performance, and for the rest of his life Mr. Reynolds considered Duncan his mentor and the most influential person in his life.