James Thomas Patrick "J. T." Walsh had been considered as the very embodiment of a character actor, and one of the best of his kind. He has appeared in many well known films, including Nixon, Hoffa, A Few Good Men, Backdraft, Miracle on 34th Street, Outbreak, Breakdown, Pleasantville, The Negotiator, and Good Morning, Vietnam. During his life time he was known for portraying "quietly sinister white-collar sleazeballs" (as stated by Leonard Maltin) in numerous films, and was described as "everybody's favorite scumbag" by Playboy magazine. J.T. Walsh filled a need for hospital corner-executive types and glowering villains throughout a busy 15-year career.

J.T. Walsh was born on September 28, 1943 in San Francisco, California, USA as James Thomas Patrick Walsh. He had three siblings: Christopher, Patricia, and Mary as his family members. From 1948 to 1962, the family lived in West Germany, before moving back to the United States. After 1962 his parents decided t move to United States for further living. After studying at Clongowes Wood College in Ireland from 1955 to 1961, Walsh attended the University of Tübingen in Tübingen, and then the University of Rhode Island, where he starred in many college theater productions. In 1974, he was discovered by a theatre director and began working in off-Broadway shows.

Talking about his acting journey, though he was noticed for his acting skills in his university but, Walsh did not appear in films until 1983, when he had a minor role in Eddie Macon's Run. Over the next 15 years, he appeared in over 50 feature films, increasingly taking the bad guy role for which he is well known, such as Sergeant Major Dickerson in Good Morning, Vietnam. On television, he again portrayed an evil character, prison warden Brodeur on the 1995 X Files episode "The List". Brodeur beats a handcuffed inmate to death because the inmate informs him that he will be next on the list of people a former inmate has threatened to kill.

Previously he has worked in a variety of career fields, from social worker to encyclopedia salesman, junior high school teacher, and reporter during his young adulthood. It wasn't until age 30 that he focused on stage acting, and ten more years that he began popping up regularly on the big screen. Walsh wanted to show his range as an actor and play good guys, despite being typecast as a villain. Although he did get to play a few decent people, such as the White House Chief of Staff in Outbreak and Chester Van Damme in Sniper, even those films had him portray a character with an amoral streak. He played a member of Majestic 12 in the 1996 sci-fi drama series Dark Skies. The 1997 thriller Breakdown featured Walsh as the villainous truck driver, which raised his profile to movie audiences. It was his last starring film released during his lifetime. In his final year of life, Walsh starred in the films Hidden Agenda, Pleasantville, and The Negotiator. All three films were dedicated to his memory. He had appeared in four movies along with Kurt Russell: Tequila Sunrise (1988), Backdraft (1991), Executive Decision (1996) and Breakdown (1997).

Walsh died from a fatal heart attack in Lemon Grove, California while vacationing near San Diego, CA. Walsh fell ill while staying at a resort hotel & was taken to Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, CA, where he was pronounced dead. He lived in Encino (Los Angeles) with his son, John West, at the time of his death on February 27, 1998. He was 54 years old. Actor Jack Nicholson dedicated his Academy Award for As Good as It Gets to the memory of Walsh, with whom he had starred in A Few Good Men and Hoffa.