Oklahoma Fans Remember Actor James Garner In Norman

Sunday, July 20th 2014, 6:42 pm
By: News 9

An award winning actor from Norman, with a career spanning more than 50 years has died.

James Garner, 86, known for his roles in Maverick, The Rockford Files, and The Notebook, passed away in his Los Angeles home Saturday night.

On a hot, bright sunny day, while sitting in his wheelchair, Steven Smith looks up at the ten-foot-bronze statue of James Garner as Bret Maverick.

Smith strums away on his guitar playing an old classic tune in memory of the legendary actor.

“What I know about Mr. Garner, he always did right,” said Smith.

Garner was born and raised in Norman. He moved out to Los Angeles at one point, but returned to his hometown and went to school at Norman High.

“My uncle went to school with him back when they were kids,” said Stevens Smith, Garner fan. “They were poor together. They didn’t know it, but they were still friends.”

Smith said his uncle has told him many stories before about Garner, but there’s one in particular he will never forget.

“Taking the school superintendent’s wagon apart and putting it back together on top of his house. It was a funny story they ever had and they did that one Halloween night,” said Smith. “While he was out running around the school making sure the kids weren't messing up, they did a job on his yard.”

Even though James Garner spent most of his time living in Los Angeles, some people in Norman say he’s still an Oklahoman at heart.

“We walk by the statue all the time,” said Skip Hill, who is a fan. “It really has a special meaning today the statue.”

Hill works in an art gallery down the street from where the statue sits in James Garner Plaza, near Main Street. A part of that street is also known as the James Garner Corridor. Garner made a special appearance in Norman, when his statue was unveiled in 2006.

“As a kid living in Oklahoma and being the creative type you know, you don’t make movies here so how do you get famous being an actor?” said Hill. “Well, just the fact that he was from here and made it was really impressive.”

Meanwhile, Smith believes the statue will serve as a reminder to Oklahomans about how far a man with an American dream can go.

Garner was nominated for best actor in 1986 for "Murphy's Romance". He won three golden globes and an Emmy.