Edmond Clothing Store Owner Recalls Giving James Garner His First Job

Monday, July 21st 2014, 7:08 pm
By: News 9

Hollywood is mourning the loss of Oklahoma's own James Garner. The Norman native and movie star died at age 86 over the weekend.

News 9 found the man who gave Garner his first job, in which he paid Garner $1 per hour for manual labor in Edmond.

Long before he ever starred in the series Maverick, clothing store owner Morris Gibson said James Garner was a real-life maverick.

“Didn't have anything to do, didn't have a job, was playing a little poker and stuff and having fights here and there,” recalled Morris “Hoot” Gibson of McCalls clothing store in Edmond.

The 91-year-old Gibson said the year was 1953. James Garner, who was Jim Bumgarner then, was 24 years old and had just returned from the Korean War.

“Quite a guy, he's a handsome guy, one of the best looking men I ever saw,” Gibson told News 9.

7/20/2014 related Story: Oklahoma Fans Remember Actor James Garner In Norman

Garner's older brother recruited him to convert an old pool hall into a men's clothing store Gibson was opening.

“We paid him a handsome salary. He made $1 an hour,” Gibson chuckled. “That was big money for him.”

For two months, Garner renovated the building with Gibson, working as many as 30 hours a week.

“He kept saying, ‘I'm going to go to California. I'm going to California and I'm going to get in the movies,’” said Gibson.

Finally, after a cold night of working without heat, Garner made his move.

“He said, ‘Boys, you are going to have to find you another hand because I'm quitting.’ We said, ‘You're quitting? Do you have another job?’ He said, ‘No, but I've saved enough money. I'm going to California,’” Gibson explained.

The Norman native shortened his surname from Bumgarner to Garner and had a successful acting career that spanned more than 50 years. Gibson took Garner's passing hard.

“It shocked me, it really did. I just almost cried,” he said, choking back tears.

Gibson said Garner was Oklahoma through and through.