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