Buford T. Justice is an archetypal (approaching cliche) southern sheriff: confrontational, profane, short-tempered, stubborn and determined. While he can be charming and professional, his pursuit of the Bandit is a deeply personal affair (compounded by the fact the Bandit absconded with his son Junior's fiancee, embarrassing the Justice family as a whole). Justice tends to take his hunt for the Bandit to the extremes and quite often this leads to the wrecking of his Squad Cars. He nonetheless remains behind the wheel of the wrecked cars and refers to them as "evidence." He shuns help from other law enforcement departments, often alienating them, so that he can personally apprehend the Bandit. Sheriff Justice is chivalrous towards women and the elderly, yet he has no problem casually roughing up suspects (especially "young punks") to make a point. Indeed, he kicks a would-be tire thief in the backside as "an attention-getter," and he knees another in the groin. When Justice does have someone in custody, he smugly draws the affair out, obviously relishing the fact he is making things as unpleasant as possible for the suspect. Justice takes any skirting of the law very personally, and says emphatically, "What we’re dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the Law!"
In the first "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Smokey and the Bandit Part II", Sheriff Justice is the primary antagonist to the Bandit (played by Burt Reynolds), while in "Smokey and the Bandit Part 3" he is the primary protagonist, as Big and Little Enos Burdette challenge him to make a run for them from Miami, Florida to their ranch on the outskirts of Austin, Texas in 24 hours, while carrying a stuffed shark (which is the logo of their "Fish & Chips" fast food franchise), for the prize of $250,000. Justice seems to have no love for Big and Little Enos, and doesn't hide it, as their hiring of the Bandit to do their runs in the past had led Buford into many humiliating predicaments while hunting the Bandit, and berates them (especially on Little Enos, attacking him for his small stature).
While Buford enjoys the idea of capturing and imprisoning the Bandit for all the things he has done to him in the past, in Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 this changes when he finally captures the "Bandit" (not knowing it was Cledus posing as the Bandit in a plan by the Enoses to make the Sheriff lose the bet). The Sheriff proceeds to have an open "heart to heart" conversation with a hallucination of the real Bandit (Reynolds in a cameo) - Buford finally discovers that he had developed an unexpected fondness for the Bandit and despite the fact he was planning to retire after this run, the memory of his disastrous vacation in Miami Beach at the opening of the film and the idea of living a life with no excitement as the voice of his son overplays in his mind, Buford has second thoughts and lets him go so he can resume chasing him. Thus ending the film, and the franchise, in one last hot pursuit.
Sheriff Justice is always accompanied by his dim-witted, yet devoted son Junior (played by Mike Henry). Junior's actual name is never revealed. Justice mainly calls him Junior, but at times also calls him "Moose Twit" and "Barrel of Monkey Nuts" among other things. He constantly berates his son, yet Junior always remains loyal and devoted to his father. A repeated remark Justice makes to his son throughout the trilogy is "There is no way, NO WAY, that you could come from my loins!". Justice's wife, Wilhelmina, if often referred to but never seen in the films. He makes many unpleasant remarks about her, alluding that she is probably ugly, overweight, and smelly. She is probably racist as well, as Justice says in Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 that she joined the Ku Klux Klan and looked like an iceberg with feet when she put on her white sheet. Justice has two brothers who are also in law enforcement, Gaylord Justice and Reginald Van Justice, both played by Jackie Gleason. He enlists their help in Smokey and the Bandit II. They bring an armada of Canadian Mounties, led by Reggie, and Texas Highway Patrolmen, led by Gaylord, but the armada is demolished when the Snowman brings a convoy of trucks to rescue the Bandit.
Buford's Squad Cars differ from film to film, which get wrecked in various ways do to his overzealous pursuit of the Bandit...
In Smokey 1, his car is a brown color Fourth Generation 1977 Pontiac LeMans with two blue single Lights: This loses the back right side fender, the top, the Driver side door and the Back right side passenger door, the front right wheel and the trunk door.
In Smokey 2 his car is a Gold color 1980 sixth generation Bonneville Pontiac, with two single Red Emergency lights on the edges, two extra smaller ones (one red and one blue) and large Megaphone in the center that completes this display: It gets its back rightside fender buckle, the left side of the emergency lights display destroy and Megaphone buckle downwards. Finally, after a desert demolition derby between trucks and police cars, Buford emerges from the fight with his car folded up in the middle and missing its doors and roof.
Is important to note, that in many scenes a Pontiac Grand Ville was painted with the exact looks as the Sheriff's Bonneville to be use as a stand in the film, and was the one been hit by Snowman's truck in Miami, turned upside down by the football player, as well falling from a drawbrige - in fact the final damage suffered by the car after the desert battle (folded up) uses the Grand Ville, not the Bonneville. Only two scenes show the Bonneville getting scrapes: in the Fair, where the Sheriff destroys the supports of a Roller Coaster causing it collapse, and in the Desert Demolition Derby where Snowman's truck hits the Sheriff's car. Also, when the film ends, Buford is seeing having commandeer a Passenger Bus still in pursuit of the Bandit.
In Smokey 3, his final car is a Light Blue 1983 smaller version of the Bonneville Pontiac, with Two single Emergency lights (each sharing a Blue-Red display) and two smaller red ones, with the center of the display open to have the Shark Replica tied up during the run, and it also had a "Sheriff" decal located on the trunk. Of the three cars, the third vehicle is put through the most punishment: This loses it's driver side forward fender, gets sprayed with paint on the right side, gets buried in sand, loses it's forward bumper in a tug-war with a tow truck, gets partially burned in the back after been shot through a Car Cannon, its sides get scrapes and buckled in many side collisions with many cars, proceeds to get two flat tires and loses its trunk door. Finally while hunting the Fake Bandit (Jerry Reed) through a field, the Enoses set off a series of explosives, one of which destroys all of the remaining bodywork - the car emerges from the dust cloud functional, leaving the engine, seats, and police light bar (being held by Junior above his head).
Despite the enormous amount of damage they suffer, the Sheriff's cars still come out from each situation operable.
Buford T. Justice has a leitmotif in the films of imposing, menacing trumpets (somewhat reminiscent of the Dragnet theme), reflecting his authoritative bluster - while the leitmotif tune appears in the films, is surprisingly not present in Smokey and the Bandit Part 3.
"Buford T. Justice" was the name of a real Florida Highway Patrolman known to Burt Reynolds' father, who himself was once Chief of Police of Jupiter, Florida. Reynolds' father was also the inspiration for the word "sumbitch" used in the movie, a phrase he reportedly uttered quite often.
Reynolds recalled meeting Gleason: "I'd met Jackie once in Florida where he lived, and he'd done an impression of a Southern sheriff that caused me to fall down laughing. Overly polite to women, Jackie explained, those sheriffs would get the man and say, "Look you sumbitch, what the fuck you think you're doin?" Director Hal Needham gave Gleason free rein to ad-lib dialogue and make suggestions. In the scene where Sheriff Justice unknowingly encounters the Bandit in the "choke and puke" (roadside diner), Reynolds said that it was Gleason's "idea to have the toilet paper coming out of his pantleg when he left the Bar-B-Q." And when Sheriff Justice is forced to delay pursuit of the Bandit while a funeral procession slowly passes, Gleason ad-libbed: "If they’d cremated the sonofabitch, I’d be kickin’ that Mr. Bandit’s ass around the moon by now."