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Off-Road Hall Of Fame Inductees
James Garner Year Inducted: 1978

As a famous actor James Garner brought much needed publicity to off-road racing in the early years of sports development when it needed the attention the most.
James Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman, Oklahoma, April 7, 1928 to Weldon Warren Bumgarner and Mildred Meek. Weldon Bumgarner worked as a carpet layer. As a young man James Garner worked numerous jobs including a stint at a gas station. At the age of 16 he joined the Merchant Marine. He then joined the National Guard. The U.S. Military drafted him to serve in the Korean War. There he received the Purple Heart.

He attended University of Oklahoma. He became interested in acting and studied the art at Herbert Bergoff Studios, New York. Garner has enjoyed a long and successful acting career with appearances on stage, television and in movies winning the Emmy Award in 1977 and 1986. His career began with the stage production “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial,” early 1950s. From there Warner Brothers offered him a contract. In 1956 he made his film debut in “Toward the Unknown.” He is perhaps most recognized for his title role in the television show “Maverick” which ran from 1957-62 and for his title role in “The Rockford Files,” NBC-TV, 1974-79. He acted in the movie “The Great Escape” in 1963 with fellow Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductees actor Steve McQueen and stuntman Bud Ekins. In 1966 he appeared in the automobile racing movie Grand Prix.

Beyond the screen in “real life” Garner also actively participated in auto racing both on-road and off-road. He has driven the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 on three occasions in 1975, 1977 and 1985. He owned the American International Racing team from 1967 through 1969. The team members partook in Daytona and Sebring.

Garner participated in many off-road races as a driver, his presence often brought a touch publicity to the sport while still being treated as an “everyman” by his fellow racers. He attended the first Stardust 7-11 in Las Vegas. He co-drove with Scooter Patrick in a Porsche powered Manx owned by John Crean. The men did not finish the race. His presence at the 1968 NORRA Mexican 1000 helped to generate publicity for the event and coverage on ABC’s show the Wide World of Sports.

In 1972 Garner raced the Banshee a vehicle built for him by fellow Hall of Fame Inductee Vic Hickey. Garner won the Riverside Grand Prix in the vehicle despite the fact that he crashed the car towards the end of the event. He placed the car in the top five at a number of races. Hickey said of Garner “The thing about Garner was that, while he wasn’t the world’s most fearless driver, he had the best retention of any man who drove for me. On a pre-run, if he hit a bump, he come back five days later and tell you where it was with in ten feet.”

Garner has a history of involvement with humanitarian and other causes he believes in. In 1963 he helped organize Martin Luther Kings March on Washington for Civil Rights in and visited the troops in Vietnam in 1967. He is a member of the National Support Committee of the Native American Rights Fund and the National Advisory Board of the United States High School Golf Association. He has been involved with the Save the Coast movement to stop offshore drilling in California. One of his more recent endeavors is involvement with the Save the Children organization.

Garner is an inductee in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and the Cowboy Hall of Fame. He and his wife Lois Clark whom he married in1956 have three children, Greta, Kimberly, and Scott.


Fiolka, Marty. 1000 Miles to Glory, The History of the Baja 1000. Phoenix, AZ. David Bull Publishing. 2005.






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