Though the show’s been off the air for 25 years, the FBI has honored veteran actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. from The FBI.
The FBI ran for nine seasons on ABC, from 1965 until 1974. The series follows the investigations of Inspector Lewis Erskine (Zimbalist Jr.) and his team. The stories are based on actual F.B.I. cases whose details were changed to protect the innocent. Others in the cast include Stephen Brooks, Philip Abbott, William Reynolds, Lynn Loring, and Shelly Novack.
A well-rated show in its day, one of the show’s advisers was Mark Felt, an assistant director of the real FBI agency. It was revealed a few years ago that Felt was the “Deep Throat” source in the Watergate scandal.
Zimbalist became so identified with the government agency that J. Edgar Hoover once remarked, “I have received hundreds of letters from people saying that the inspector on the FBI series portrayed what they thought an FBI agent should portray.”
After the show ended, Zimbalist continued his relationship with the agency. He participated in charity events that helped raise money for families of agents killed in the line of duty, lent his voice to narrate FBI recruiting videos, and appearing at various FBI functions around the country.
Yesterday, on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the FBI, Director Robert Mueller presented the 90-year-old actor with an honorary special agent badge. The ceremony was held at the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
In his speech, Mueller said, “In 1985, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI presented Efrem’s character, Inspector Lewis Erskine, with a set of retired credentials. Today, we are proud to honor the man behind the character with another award.”
He continued, “We consider the honorary special agent award the highest honor that we bestow on individuals outside the Bureau. And today, we are proud to present it to you. We are grateful for your service and your friendship, and will always consider you a member of the FBI family.”
Zimbalist was present to receive the award and the actor said that he felt humbled by the honor and called the agency America’s guardian. “Thank you with all my heart,” he said.