Marshal James Strickland
Biographical information
Date of birth1840s (approx.)
Age (1885)40s
Age (1931)90s (likely deceased)
Physical description
Hair colorBlond (also blond mustache)
Eye colorBrown
Behind-the-scenes information
Played byJames Tolkan
"There was a commotion at the back of the crowd. Marty saw three men pushing their way through — two of them were the deputies who had been guarding the gun table, and the third one also had a badge. Marty had never seen him before — or had he? Holy Cow! This guy had to be Marshal Strickland. He looked exactly like Marty's truant officer, Mr. Strickland, except now he — that is, Strickland's grandfather, the marshal — had a handlebar mustache. Whoa. This was heavy."
—From Back to the Future Part III by Craig Shaw Gardner (quote, page 130)
"All right, now break it up. What's all this about? You causing trouble here, Tannen?"
—James Strickland breaking up the brawl Buford Tannen and Marty McFly
"The only party I'll be smilin' at, is the one that sees you at the end of a rope."
—James Strickland to Buford Tannen

James Strickland was the Marshal of Hill Valley in 1885, and the paternal grandfather of Robert Strickland, Edna Strickland, and Stanford S. Strickland, the Hill Valley High School principal in the 20th century.


Marshal James Strickland first arrived in Hill Valley in 1869.[1]

On September 3, Marshal Strickland was out of town as he had gone to Haysville to witness the hanging of Stinky Lomax, and a sign announcing this was posted on his office door.

Along with his son Roger (presumably the father of Robert, Edna, and Stanford), the Marshal was first seen attending the festival on Saturday September 5 that celebrated the clock tower being constructed. According to Dr. Emmett Brown in the game, he arrived in Hill Valley in 1869.

He and his deputy made sure that no one went to the party armed, although Strickland missed a small derringer pistol hidden underneath the hat of Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen. Tannen snidely told the Marshal that he ought to smile since it was a party, but the stoic lawman simply replied he would only smile when he saw Tannen hanged. After Tannen and his men left, Strickland turned to his son and told him to always remember to value discipline above all else. Later, at the party, Strickland showed up armed with a shotgun during a tense moment between Tannen and "Clint Eastwood" (who was Marty McFly in disguise), breaking up the confrontation and getting the party back on track.

On Monday September 7, Marshal Strickland was unavailable for reasons unknown, and so it was his deputy who arrested Tannen for robbing the Pine City Stage.

In the 1890s, Marshal James Strickland and his deputy, along with Zeke and Jeb, responded to a report that Dr. Emmett Brown was causing trouble outside of town. Doc had hired a group of railroad workers to lay down fifty yards of track, seemingly without a train.

Strickland, by this time well aware of Doc's eccentricity, told Doc that he knew it was for an experiment, but it didn't make any sense. Doc told him that the future didn't always make sense, as he left with his sons, Jules and Verne.

Strickland likely died prior to 1931, as Edna Strickland stated he had been shot and killed by "Mad Dog" Tannen.

In 1931, Edna Strickland gave Doc the suit that her grandfather wore on his wedding night (which would later be destroyed due to action taken by Marty).

Sometime after arriving in 1876, Edna informed Marshal Strickland of a Palace Saloon being built by Beauregard Tannen, only for the Marshal to do nothing. This resulted in Edna attempting to burn the building herself, only to be stopped by Marty and Doc.

In the 1931B timeline, Edna kept a picture of her grandfather, and in her deluded state mistook her cactus for him after a mop top and hat were placed on it.

Behind the scenes[]

Strickland and son

Marshal James Strickland and son.

  • A deleted scene, a version of which was retained in the novelization, had Tannen and his men encountering Marshal Strickland and his son while en route to the duel with "Clint Eastwood," and Strickland attempts to bar the outlaw's way. Tannen warns him to stand aside unless he wants his son to see him die, and Strickland for some reason obeys, but is shot in the back anyway by Tannen, who then rides off with his gang. As he lies dying, Strickland tells his distraught son once more, "Remember that word, son. Discipline." However, in the novelization, Strickland dies instantly. The scene was felt to be too dark for a family audience, and was duly edited out. This explains why Strickland's deputy arrests Tannen later, and not Strickland himself. As originally filmed, and in the novelization, the deputy arrested Tannen for the murder of Marshal Strickland, but in the finished movie Tannen was arrested for robbing the Pine City Stage. As the deputy reads the charge "robbing the Pine City Stage", the camera cuts away to a shot of Marty and Doc to cover the fact that this line has been dubbed over the original dialogue, "the murder of Marshal James Strickland". As the scene was deleted from the film, the canonicity of Strickland's death remained unclear.
  • Back to the Future: The Game: Episode 1: "It's About Time" referenced this deleted scene when Edna Strickland noted that he was gunned down by "Mad Dog" Tannen. However, it's possible that he was killed at a later point in time, as Marty McFly noted that he didn't remember that occurring while he was there.
  • In the second issue of IDW Publishing's Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines comic series, co-written by Bob Gale, Marshal Strickland was still alive in the 1890s.
  • His first name was not mentioned in the film, but was given in the novelization. It may be an in-joke reference to actor James Tolkan, who plays both the Marshal and Mr. Strickland. The Marshal was given a full head of hair to make up for Mr. Strickland (and Tolkan himself) being bald, according to Bob Gale in the DVD commentary. Another in-joke it may have made reference to was the first film, when Marty sees a younger Strickland in 1955 and remarks to Doc "Didn't that guy ever have any hair".
  • Although dedicated to his duties as a lawman, Marshal Strickland had a sense of restraint and knew when enough was enough. One example was mention in the game by Edna where he "did nothing" over the construction of the Palace Saloon, presumably because such a building was legal in those days and he would have had to catch Beauregard Tannen red-handed in some wrongful act before taking action. Another example was seen in the third film where he defuses a fight between Buford Tannen and "Clint Eastwood" by sternly stating anyone caught fighting in town gets two weeks in durance vile. When the guests at the hootenanny are in silence, James Strickland, realizing he has restored order, makes himself scarce and tells the band to resume playing and then announces "Come on everyone, go back to dancing, this is a party!"
  • In Edna's picture, Marshal Strickland's pose is based on a photograph of George Custer. In fact, an unused file in the game reveals that a realistic version of the picture (using an image from the movie) was made by editing Marshal Strickland's head onto the photograph of Custer.



Notes and references[]

  1. Mentioned by Doc Brown in "OUTATIME" during 1931A.

The McFly Family
Marty McFly | George McFly | Lorraine Baines McFly | Jennifer Parker | Seamus McFly | Maggie McFly
Dave McFly | Linda McFly | Martin McFly, Jr. | Marlene McFly | Arthur McFly
The Brown Family
Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown | Clara Clayton-Brown | Jules Brown | Verne Brown | Einstein
The Tannen Family
Biff Tannen | Buford Tannen | Griff Tannen | Irving "Kid" Tannen
The Strickland Family
James Strickland | Roger Strickland | Irene Strickland | Edna Strickland | Gerald Strickland
Other Individuals
Match, Skinhead & 3-D | Goldie Wilson | Douglas J. Needles | Marcus Irving