Buford T. Justice

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sheriff Buford T. Justice is a fictional character played by Jackie Gleason in the films Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983).[1] He is a determined, foul-mouthed Texas sheriff, from Montague County, and he chases "the Bandit" all over the Southern United States. Film reviewer Christian Toto writes that Sheriff Justice is "a volcano trapped in the body of a husky law enforcer, a man whose sense of outrage threatens to boil over in every scene." [2]


Buford T. Justice is an archetypal (approaching cliche) southern sheriff: confrontational, profane, short-tempered, stubborn and determined. While he can be charming and professional, his pursuit of the Bandit is a deeply personal affair (compounded by the fact the Bandit absconded with his son Junior's fiancee, embarrassing the Justice family as a whole). Justice tends to take his hunt for the Bandit to the extremes and quite often this leads to the wrecking of his Squad Cars. He nonetheless remains behind the wheel of the wrecked cars and refers to them as "evidence." He shuns help from other law enforcement departments, often alienating them, so that he can personally apprehend the Bandit. Sheriff Justice is chivalrous towards women and the elderly, yet he has no problem casually roughing up suspects (especially "young punks") to make a point. Indeed, he kicks a would-be tire thief in the backside as "an attention-getter," and he knees another in the groin. When Justice does have someone in custody, he smugly draws the affair out, obviously relishing the fact he is making things as unpleasant as possible for the suspect. Justice takes any skirting of the law very personally, and says emphatically, "What we’re dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the Law!"


Sheriff Justice is always accompanied by his dim-witted, yet devoted son Junior (played by Mike Henry). Junior's actual name is never revealed. Justice mainly calls him Junior, but at times also calls him "Moose Twit" and "Tick Turd" among other things. He constantly berates his son, yet Junior always remains loyal and devoted to his father. A repeated remark Justice makes to his son throughout the trilogy is "There is no way, NO WAY, that you could come from my loins!". Justice's wife, Wilhelmina, if often referred to but never seen in the films. He makes many unpleasant remarks about her, alluding that she is probably ugly, overweight, and smelly. She is probably racist as well, as Justice says in Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 that she joined the Ku Klux Klan and looked like an iceberg with feet when she put on her white sheet. Justice has two brothers who are also in law enforcement, Gaylord Justice and Reginald Van Justice, both played by Jackie Gleason. He enlists their help in Smokey and the Bandit II. They bring an armada of Canadian Mounties, led by Reggie, and Texas Highway Patrolmen, led by Gaylord, but the armada is demolished when the Snowman brings a convoy of trucks to rescue the Bandit.

Soundtrack theme[edit]

Buford T. Justice has a leitmotif in the films of imposing, menacing trumpets (somewhat reminiscent of the Dragnet theme), reflecting his authoritative bluster.

Character Origin[edit]

"Buford T. Justice" was the name of a real Florida Highway Patrolman known to Burt Reynolds' father, who himself was once Chief of Police of Jupiter, Florida. Reynold's father was also the inspiration for the word "sumbitch" used in the movie, a phrase he reportedly uttered quite often.

Reynolds recalled meeting Gleason: "I'd met Jackie once in Florida where he lived, and he'd done an impression of a Southern sheriff that caused me to fall down laughing. Overly polite to women, Jackie explained, those sheriffs would get the man and say, "Look you sumbitch, what the fuck you think you're doin?" [3] Director Hal Needham gave Gleason free rein to ad-lib dialogue and make suggestions. [4] In the scene where Sheriff Justice unknowingly encounters the Bandit in the "choke and puke" (roadside diner), Reynolds said that it was Gleason's "idea to have the toilet paper coming out of his pantleg when he left the Bar-B-Q." [5] And when Sheriff Justice is forced to delay pursuit of the Bandit while a funeral procession slowly passes, Gleason ad-libbed: "If they’d cremated the sonofabitch, I’d be kickin’ that Mr. Bandit’s ass around the moon by now." [6]


  1. ^ Hollis, Tim (2008). Ain't that a knee-slapper: rural comedy in the twentieth century. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 237. ISBN 978-1-934110-73-7. 
  2. ^ Toto, Chistian "Burt Reynolds’ star power helped make “Smokey and the Bandit” one of the biggest hits of the ’70s" June 5, 2012 Breitbart.com retrieved October 29, 2015
  3. ^ Von Doviak, Scott Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema p. 34
  4. ^ Grin Leo "For Conservative Movie Lovers: Hal Needham, Burt Reynolds and 'Smokey and the Bandit' Part 3" December 19, 2009 Breitbart.com retrieved October 29 2015
  5. ^ Von Doviak, Scott Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema pp. 34-35
  6. ^ Grin Leo "For Conservative Movie Lovers: Hal Needham, Burt Reynolds and 'Smokey and the Bandit' Part 3" December 19, 2009 Breitbart.com retrieved October 29 2015