Warren Mercer Oates (July 5, 1928 – April 3, 1982) was a prolific American actor best known for his performances in several films directed by Sam Peckinpah including The Wild Bunch (1969) and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974). He starred in numerous films during the early 1970s which have since achieved cult status including The Hired Hand (1971), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and Race with the Devil (1975). Oates also portrayed Sergeant Hulka in the box office hit Stripes (1981).
Oates was born and raised in Depoy, Kentucky (near Greenville in Muhlenberg County), the son of Sarah Alice (née Mercer) and Bayless E. Oates, who owned a general store. He attended high school in Louisville, got interested in theater at the University of Louisville and starred in several plays there in 1953 for the Little Theater Company. He got a big break in New York City starring in a live production of the television series Studio One in 1957.
The actor migrated to Los Angeles where he began to carve out a niche playing guest roles in Western television programs of the period including Wagon Train, Tombstone Territory, Rawhide,Trackdown, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Have Gun-Will Travel, The Big Valley and Gunsmoke. Oates first met Peckinpah when he played a variety of guest roles on The Rifleman (1958–1963), the popular television series created by the director. He also played a supporting role in Peckinpah's short-lived TV series The Westerner in 1960. The collaboration continued as he worked on Peckinpah's early films Ride the High Country (1962) and Major Dundee (1965).