Brooklyn-born actor John Joseph Patrick Ryan borrowed his stage name "Jack Lord" from a distant relative. Spending his immediate post-college years as a seafaring man, Lord worked as an engineer in Persia before returning to American shores to manage a Greenwich Village art school and paint original work; he flourished within that sphere (often signing his paintings "John J. Ryan,") and in fact exhibited the tableaux at an array of prestigious institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Modern Museum of Art. Lord switched to acting in the late 1940s, studying under Sanford Meisner at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse. In films and television from 1949, Lord (a performer with stark features including deep-set eyes and high cheekbones) played his share of brutish villains and working stiffs before gaining TV fame as star of the critically acclaimed but low-rated rodeo series Stoney Burke (1962).
At around the same time, Lord played CIA agent Felix Leiter in the first James Bond film, Dr. No. From 1968 through 1980, Lord starred on the weekly cop drama Hawaii Five-O; producers cast him as Steve McGarrett, a troubleshooter with the Hawaii State Police who spent his days cruising around the islands, cracking open individual cases, and taking on the movers and shakers in Hawaiian organized crime, particularly gangster Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh), who eluded capture until the program's final month on the air. Lord also wrote and directed several episodes. After Hawaii 5-0 folded, Jack Lord attempted another Hawaii-based TV series, but M Station: Hawaii (1980) never got any farther than a pilot film. Lord died of congestive heart failure in his Honolulu beachfront home at the age of 77, in January 1998. He was married to Marie Denarde for 50 years.