Richard David Kimble was a pediatrician from Stafford, IN who in the 1960s became the most famous fugitive in memory. Born in 1930, Kimble joined the Marines and became a corpsman; in Korea he was injured by an enemy grenade but was rescued by soldier Joe Hallop, who was disfigured and mentally scarred by the battle enough to make an attempt on Kimble's life many years later.
In 1955 Kimble interned at the hospital in Fairgreen, IN, where he met a nurse, Helen Waverly. They fell in love and soon married. However, when they tried to have a child, Helen bore a son, but their son was stillborn, and in the operation that followed, Helen Waverly-Kimble was rendered infertile.
Richard wished to adopt a child, but Helen, refusing to believe she could love another's child, angrilly refused, and the two quarrelled with enough frequency that, on the night of September 19, 1961, Richard was about to take Helen out to a restaurant but let slip it was an eatery recommended by a member of an adoption clinic, which threw Helen into another rage. Kimble stormed out of their house and drove off, wandering about the countryside and noticing a boy fishing in a lake before relaxing.
Unknown to Richard, Helen telephoned their friend Lloyd Chandler and he visited their house, trying to calm her down after she had begun drinking furiously. A commotion in their living room brought Helen face-to-face with a heavyset drifter whose right arm was missing. The stranger - who was eventually identified as Fred Johnson - tried to escape but in the ensuing fight he threw down Helen then killed her with a massive blow to the head with a lamp. Chandler, freezing in fear, could not bring himself to intervene, and Johnson escaped out the front door while Chandler supinely snapped out of his funk and slipped out the back.
Johnson ran out and immediately ran into the returning Richard Kimble. Richard got enough of a look at Johnson's face to have the image seared in his memory. When Johnson fled, Richard ran into the house and found Helen's body. But interrogation by the office of Lt. Philip Gerard resulted in interviews of 83 men matching the description provided by Kimble, none of whom were in the area at the time of the murder. Kimble was convicted and sentenced to die, but after a year's worth of appeals he was being escorted by Gerard to the death house in March 1963 when their train derailed.
The crash freed Kimble from Gerard, and he now became a fugitive, wandering the country and working odd jobs in his search for Fred Johnson. Over the years he received help from many individuals who understood his plight, such as Chicago news columnist Michael Decker (who went to jail for aiding and abetting as a result), and newswriter Barbara Webb, who helped Kimble rescue Fred Johnson when he was injured in an accident. Periodically Richard returned home to see his sister, Donna Taft; in one such visit he was forced to confront his younger brother Ray, bitter over being mocked as Richard's brother. Richard managed to convince his brother of his innocence, restoring their bond. Meanwhile the bond between Richard and his father, medical doctor John Kimble, never faltered through John's death in 1966.
For Helen Waverly's family a similar crisis occurred in 1965 as Ruth Waverly suffered heart trouble due to grief-induced stress and the ensuing medical costs threatened the family with bankrupcy. Richard, however, appeared in Fairgreen and found a secret bank account kept by Helen for emergency. In so doing Richard had to overcome the fury of Ruth as she clung tenaciously to her daughter's memory but was finally convinced of her son-in-law's innocence.
In his travels Kimble periodically crossed paths with Lt. Gerard, but circumstances sometimes forced Kimble to rescue Gerard from dangerous situations, such as in a 1965 incident when a group of hillbilly-types accused Gerard of molestation, and such acts of compassion helped forge a respect between puruser and pursued that aggravated the doubts about Kimble's guilt that gnawed at Gerard. The respect between the two men was also illustrated in 1966 in Pennsylvania when former Syndicate member Arthur Brame was rescued by Kimble, and upon learning of Gerard's pursuit lured Gerard to a warehouse where he attempted to shoot him with a sniper rifle; Kimble, however, learned of Brame's contract from his wife Sharon and rescued Gerard; the two briefly cooperated to evade Brame but in the confusion Kimble escaped and Gerard was forced to kill Arthur Brame.
In 1967 Fred Johnson was arrested in Los Angeles, and when Kimble learned of the arrest he got a ride to the city but was intercepted by Jean Carlisle, the daughter of his friend Ben Carlisle. A court stenographer, Jean and her family had been persecuted in Stafford because her father had been arrested for embezzlement, and only Richard and Helen Kimble showed any sympathy, helping Jean and her mother cope. When Fred Johnson was bailed out of jail, he returned to Stafford - the reason why was discovered by Richard and Jean in a bail bond receipt signed for by Leonard Taft, Kimble's brother-in-law.
"Taft," however, was in reality Lloyd Chandler using Taft's name as an alias, and Richard, with help from Lt. Gerard as he finally learned the truth about Helen Kimble's murder, confronted Johnson in a shuttered amusement park. In the ensuing showdown Johnson was killed, but Lloyd Chandler, doing what he knew should have been done years before, testified to witnessing Johnson murder Helen Kimble.
Exonorated, Kimble disappeared into the obscurity of a free man. He and Jean eventually married and had a family of their own as Richard returned to pediatrics. Kimble died in 1980 of a heart attack.
For the 1993 film, Kimble was changed to a vascular surgeon, who is helping two of his colleagues; Charles Nichols and Alec Lentz; to develop a new medication. Kimble discovers that the medicine causes liver damange, but Nichols and Lentz, obsessed with getting the drug approved by the FDA, forge the results of the liver tests. They hire a one-armed secrity guard, Frederic Sykes, who works for their pharmaceutical company, to kill Kimble's wife, so that he will be unable to raise any objections when the new drug goes on the market. Instead of taking four years to track down the one-armed man, in the film it takes only a few weeks.