Wardell Edwin “Ward” Bond was born April 9, 1903 in Benkelman, Nebraska.
In 1919, his parents moved the family to Denver where Ward graduated high school.
University of Southern California
At 6’2” and 195 pounds, Ward became a starting lineman for USC’s football team.
His roommate and good friend, Marion Robert Mitchell Morrison, was forced to drop out of football as a result of a bodysurfing accident in 1926.
Ward and his USC football team went on to win the national championship in 1928.
At the same time, former roommate and friend Marion Morrison had found work at local film studios with the stage name of John Wayne.
Director John Ford hired the young John Wayne, along with Ward Bond and the entire Southern Cal football team, to appear in the 1929 silent film “Salute.” During shooting of the film, director John Ford promoted Ward Bond from an extra to a supporting role along with John Wayne. Ford quickly befriended both John Wayne and Ward Bond, becoming life long friends.
Ford and Wayne then convinced Ward Bond to also get into acting full time.
Ward’s rugged face and personality fit perfectly into almost any type of film, and he went on to appear in hundreds of pictures in his more than 30-year career, in both bit parts and major supporting roles.
On a personal note, while on his way to John Wayne’s wedding he was hit by a car, but performed his duty as best man on crutches. Later, on a hunting trip, Ward was accidentally shot by John Wayne. Bond left Wayne the shotgun in his will.
Among Ward’s most memorable roles were as John L. Sullivan in Gentleman Jim (1942), Det. Tom Polhaus in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and the Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnson Clayton The Searchers (1956).
Ward’s role as “Officer Bert” in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), inspired Jim Henson to name one of his most famous Muppets after Bond’s character (Bert, of Bert and Ernie fame).
However, it was a starring role in John Ford’s 1950 film “Wagonmaster” that Ward Bond’s most lasting professional role, his continuing part as trail master Seth Adams on the hit NBC television series “Wagon Train,” which debuted in 1957.
Ward even saw to it that Ford directed one episode in which John Wayne had a bit role, billed under his real name of Marion Michael Morrison.
Ward Bond stayed with Wagon Train for three seasons as NBC’s number one series.
Then suddenly, while attending a football game in Dallas, Texas, Wardell Edwin “Ward” Bond unexpectedly died of a heart attack in his hotel room November 5, 1960 at the young age of 57.
John Wayne gave the eulogy at his funeral.
Ward Bond appeared in the most films (seven) of the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest American Movies: It Happened One Night (1934), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940) , The Maltese Falcon (1941), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and The Searchers (1956).
For his contribution to the television industry, Bond has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6933 Hollywood Blvd.
In 2001, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
There is also a Ward Bond Memorial Park in his birthplace of Benkelman, Nebraska.
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