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McCord grew up in the San Gabriel Valley town of Baldwin Park, California. He attended Citrus Junior College and then accepted a football scholarship to the University of Utah in 1962. While there, McCord began a friendship with the popular singer Ricky Nelson, which quickly led to his first acting job on the TV series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. At first a background player, McCord soon became a regular on the show.
On July 14, 1962, McCord married his high school sweetheart, Cynthia Lee Doty.
While working on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, McCord was asked to screen test at Universal Studios for a long term contract. While waiting for the studio to sign him, he continued working on other shows including several of Elvis Presley’s films, Viva Las Vegas, Girl Happy, Kissin’ Cousins, and Roustabout.
In November 1965, Universal put McCord under contract and immediately sent him to work, appearing in shows such as McHale’s Navy and The Virginian.
During this time, McCord made several appearances on Jack Webb’s Dragnet. It was his appearances on Dragnet that led Bob Cinader and Jack Webb, the producers, to cast McCord as one the stars in Adam-12.
With co-star Martin Milner, McCord helped propel Adam-12 to the top of the ratings and into television history. Adam-12 aired from 1968-1975, and produced 174 episodes that are still seen in syndication.
After Adam-12, McCord starred with Barry Van Dyke in the ABC series Galactica 1980, and in the 1989 NBC series UNSUB. More recently, he has appeared in recurring roles in the NBC series Seaquest DSV, and the USA Networks Renegade, Silk Stalkings, and Pacific Blue, as well as the Sci-Fi Channel's Farscape and the hit CBS series JAG.
On October 14, 2000, McCord and Martin Milner received The Jack Webb Award given by the LA Police Historical Society for their support of the LAPD and the community it serves.