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James McEachin

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James McEachin, a former police officer for the Hackensack Police Department (New Jersey) is an African-American actor and award-winning author most notably noted for his role as the first black man to have his own show on NBC called TENAFLY, and for his many character roles such as portraying police lieutenant Brock in the Perry Mason television movie series.

As a young man, James McEachin served in the U.S. Army before, and then during the Korean War. Serving in King Company, he was wounded (nearly fatally) in an ambush and left for dead. He was rescued by a young blond boy who carried him for two days and many miles over difficult terrain and nearby gunfire to safety before disappearing from McEachin's life forever. McEachin was one of only two soldiers to survive the ambush. He was discharged from the Army as a corporal.  He was awarded both the Purple Heart and Silver Star in 2005 by California Congressman David Dreier after McEachin participated in a Veterans History Project interview given by Dreier's office and in which they discovered McEachin had no copies of his own military records. Dreier's office quickly traced the records and notified McEachin of the Silver Star commendation and awarding him all seven of his medals of valor shortly thereafter and fifty years after his service.

Following his military career McEachin dabbled in civil service as first a fireman and then a police officer.  In 1953, he was a police officer for the Hackensack Police Department (New Jersey) before he moved to California and became a record producer. Known as Jimmy Mack in the industry, he worked with young artists like Otis Redding and went on to produce The Fury's. He began his acting career shortly after, and was signed by Universal as a contract actor in the 1960s. He was regularly cast in professional, "solid citizen" occupational roles, such as a lawyer or a police commander, guesting on numerous series such as Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, and Dragnet. He played the dee-jay Sweet Al Monty in Play Misty for Me (1971) with Clint Eastwood. In 1973, McEachin starred as Harry Tenafly, the title character in Tenafly, a short-lived detective series about a police officer turned private detective who relied on his wits and hard work, rather than guns and fistfights.

While continuing to guest star in many television series and appearing in several feature-length films, McEachin landed his most memorable role, that of police lieutenant Brock in the 1986 television movie Perry Mason: The Case of the Notorious Nun. He would reprise this role in more than a dozen Perry Mason telemovies, appearing opposite the late Raymond Burr.

In the 1990s, McEachin semi-retired from acting to pursue a writing career. His first work was a military history of the court-martial of 63 black American soldiers during the First World War, titled Farewell to the Mockingbirds (1995), which won the 1998 Benjamin Franklin Award. His next works, mainly fiction novels, included The Heroin Factor (1999), Say Goodnight to the Boys in Blue (2000), The Great Canis Lupus (2001), and Tell me a Tale: A Novel of the Old South (2003). McEachin also published Pebbles in the Roadway in (2003), a collection of short stories and essays which the author describes as "a philosophical view of America and Americans." In (2005) McEachin produced the award-winning audio book VOICES: A Tribute to the American Veteran.

In 2001, McEachin received the Distinguished Achievement Award from Morgan State University. In 2005, he became an Army Reserve Ambassador, this distinction carries the protocol of a two-star general. 

According to the book description of The Great Canis Lupus, “The life and times of Blood, the alpha wolf. Set in the late s, a black cowboy finds himself smack-dab in the middle of ancient China. Instead of facing cowboys n Indians, Its neer-do-wellers and wolves.”

James McEachin said of Voices: A Tribute to the American Veteran, “The initial idea for this recording came about when, at the behest of the U.S. Department of Defense, I was touring the country delivering speeches on behalf of Korean War veterans. The idea fell into full fruition when, along with Ed McMahon and singer Randy Travis, I was asked to narrate a piece at the MCI Center in Washington, DC.

The response was overwhelming and it took me back to earlier in the day when I had the opportunity to visit Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland and spoke with some of our young servicemen and women who had been wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a Purple Heart veteran, I understood what they were going through; moreover I was struck by their courage and dedication, and was reminded that, like all veterans, their only aim is to serve this country - and to serve it without reservation. When I returned home, I thought of writing and recording a tribute to all veterans. The result is VOICES: A Tribute to the American Veteran.

Voices is not designed to be an endorsement of any political party. The sole purpose of this offering is to pay tribute to those who have served and are now serving this nation. It is to honor those who have fought and died for the principles of freedom that we, as Americans, so enjoy today.”

Publisher’s Weekly said of Farewell to the Mockingbirds, “Inspired by the true story of the all-black, all-volunteer 24th Infantry Regiment, Company K, McEachin's second novel (after Tell Me a Tale) is a riveting account of one of the most disgraceful chapters in American military history. In 1917 the U.S. entered WWI--but while troops were heading to France, another war was about to erupt in Texas. The men of the 24th Infantry Regiment (Colored) were all volunteers, and Company K was the best outfit in the regiment, thanks largely to the leadership and discipline of Sgt. Obie McLellan. Yet the segregated Army sent the unit to a post near Houston noted for its miserable conditions. When the Houston police ignited a race riot in town, leaving many black soldiers dead, wounded or in jail, McLellan led the enraged men of Company K in a revolt against their continual mistreatment from the police and their white officers. Company K armed itself and marched into Houston to even the score and rescue their jailed comrades. The resulting court-martial produced the largest mass trial in U.S. military history: more than 100 black soldiers were charged with murder, mutiny and other capital crimes. To appease angry Southerners, the Army promised convictions and executions; perjury, blackmail, coercion and flagrant disregard for the Constitution made a mockery of military justice. McEachin's story is a tragic commentary made even more compelling by his astute portrayal of the soldiers (called mockingbirds by the prosecution) and officers involved. Despite occasionally overwrought prose, he brings the fate of Company K hauntingly to life. (Sept.) FYI: Film and TV actor McEachin received his basic military training with Company K, 24th U.S. Infantry Regiment during the Korean War.”

One reader of Farewell to the Mockingbirds said, “The actor James McEachin has enjoyed a fine second career as a novelist. This, his second novel, is an incredibly moving book about an unforgettable, yet forgotten, incident in our past. In 1917 the US Army sent a regiment of black soldiers to Houston, Texas. As could have been expected, trouble eventually occurred. Big trouble. A riot between white Houston police and the black soldiers which resulted in the deaths of several people. The result was the largest murder trial in American history, followed by the largest mass execution. This is an emotional book, written in the heat of righteous anger. But, Mr. McEachin never allows his obvious sympathies for the soldiers to descend into maudlin sentimentalism. The soldiers are fully rounded men, often troubled and flawed. Their actions are not made out to be more noble than they were. It is a book that reminds us of how far we have come in America, and how far we have to go.”

Booklist said of Say Goodnight to the Boys In Blue, “In the shadow of New York City, the calm and placid setting of Elton Head, New Jersey, in the 1950s provides deceptive cover for the dark underside of human nature. On the surface, the night shift of the police department is preoccupied with the typical work of law enforcement in a small town, but below the surface personal demons eat at the local boys in blue. On a single December night, the darker elements, starting with the typical clout and corruption and advancing to a literal beast, will test the mettle and humanity of the night-shift personnel: Scandinavian-born Danny Carlsson, with more American pride and idealism than the locals; Dempsey O. McShayne, the widowed desk sergeant who provides the moral weight and support to the men; and a drunken outcast who is befriended by no one other than Danny. In fact, Danny proves the only source of hope for the tragic deception and ironic judgment to be rendered against the boys in blue.”


Say Goodnight to the Boys In Blue
James McEachin  More Info

Pebbles in the Roadway: Tales and Essays Bits and Pieces
James McEachin  More Info

Tell Me a Tale: A Novel of the Old South
James McEachin  More Info

Farewell to the Mockingbirds
James McEachin  More Info

Voices: A Tribute to the American Veteran
James McEachin  More Info

The Great Canis Lupus
James McEachin  More Info

The Heroin Factor
James McEachin  More Info

Publisher’s Weekly said of the Heroin Factor, “Though it starts off with a couple of hoary old cliché, McEachin's offbeat but never off-kilter thriller eschews conventional action-suspense resolutions. There's a "no love lost" subplot between cranky L.A. narcotics lieutenant Wyatt McKnight and equally crusty Chief Herman Ault, who assigns McKnight to investigate the murder of fellow officer Verneau LeCoultre, a drug addict who's found shot to death after apparently being mauled by a dog. A "new partner" subplot blooms when Ault teams McKnight with a German policeman visiting L.A. to observe U.S. police methods. The two detectives quickly discover that LeCoultre's girlfriend, Angie, worked as a distributor for eccentric Leslie Van Horn, a British woman who suffers from a psychotic disorder and makes pure heroin from poppies grown on her own farm to distribute to the homeless. While locating Van Horn is relatively easy, the arrest is anything but. There are disastrous complications for McKnight's search, including violent bouts with a madwoman, a near-fatal gunshot wound, amnesia and a year of medical leave for recuperation before McKnight can track Van Horn to Bath, England. There he meets her deranged and dangerous family, and the showdown is a grisly one. McEachin's (Farewell to the Mockingbirds) third novel is not so much a mystery-thriller as an unusual, nearly unresolvable case history. As a result, the climax hinges not on the apprehension of a killer, but a search for answers, and ultimately a mutual redemption between cop and criminal, who share more than just a crime between them. It's not the story one might expect from the first few pages, but McEachin's strange twists make it a palpable, addictive one.”

One reader of the Heroin Factor said, “James McEachin is the epitome of a soldier, actor, and author, evolved in that order. with each new novel he brings forth the diversity that only a skilled artist, such as he, can do. that's clearly a survival technique whether in the trenches, the lime-light, or under the pressures of a publishing company. i have only received this book recently but it's a page turning experience from the inception. the characters are clearly concise and the evolution of the story as intriguing as "the case of the century" as it unfolds. i continue to anticipate where McEachin will take my spirit as we travel through l.a. on this "don't judge a book by its cover" journey.”

The Library Journal said of Tell Me a Tale: A Novel of the Old South, “McEachin captures the flavor of the oral tradition upon which the rural South has been built. He sets his story in decidedly unreconstructed, small-town North Carolina, where Moses, a young slave, spins a riveting tale about his dignified "uncle" Ben; a disastrous plantation fire; and, above all, his own distant white father who will not acknowledge paternity. Moses tells his story to an audience of four old-timers who are passing the time of day in Millan's General Store. YAs will readily comprehend the moral stain of slavery upon the national psyche. The message resonates in 1996 as clearly as it did in the post-Civil War era: Emancipation generated bitterness and anger among whites even as it sparked those same emotions in blacks. McEachin's writing adds serious history to the folksy mood, resulting in an effective use of the folk genre. The magic of storytelling dominates the writing, thus avoiding the unpalatable "preacher's tale" effect.”

One reader of Tell Me a Tale: A Novel of the Old South said, “have read this book twice - once several years ago and again at this time. The book haunted me with an otherworldly memory and needed to be revisited. I found McEachin skill as an author and storyteller compelling and very deep. Some passages verged on sheer poetry. The plot unravels in such a way that, just as the reader senses predictability, new surprises arrive.

Good characterization also deserves note. Each person is iconic and simply but well developed. Mildred is the old fearful aristocracy and Archy is the change agent that victimized the South. Ben came forth as the old guard slave, Ms. Pratt the voice of hope, Moses, the new generation of liberated slave, and of course there was the ever present representation of ignorance and hate. The last chapter deserved two readings.

I am hoping that the author continues to write. I am also hoping this book is made into a screenplay. I would love to see it acted out.”

One reader of Say Goodnight to the Boys In Blue said, “The author, James McEachin, continues to amaze me with his writing style. This book is a great departure from previous works which include, Farewell to the Mockingbirds and Tell Me a Story. The author presents a surprising twist to viewing law enforcement. The story takes place in New Jersey during a cold wintery night. It is the perfect backdrop of what is to unfolds as the authors presents a very amusing tale of what can happen will happen on a given night. This is not a lengthy book but it explores several themes including sexism, racism, classism, isolation and cultural. These themes are explored through the eyes of the "...Men in Blue". It is without a doubt, a very entertaining and amusing account of what might happen during the course of an eight hours shift on this local police squad given the right circumstances. The story unfolds gradually but the pace picks up after a somewhat slow introduction. It is worth the read.”

About the Hackensack Police Department:

The Hackensack Police Department was formed in 1896 for the purpose of Protecting and Serving the community. Over the past century, the department has grown into a highly professional, technologically advanced law enforcement agency as well as a community oriented service organization. The Hackensack Police Department is nationally recognized in many areas of law enforcement and community service for its many different types of activities.

 

The Department is comprised of a Patrol Division and five (5) specialized divisions. An Administrative Division oversees and coordinates the operation of the overall department.

 

Source:

hackensack.org/content/49/145/default.aspx

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