“With the exception of my wife and children, there’s nothing I value more than my Oklahoma heritage.”
Born James Scott Bumgarner, James Garner attended the University of Oklahoma and fought in Korea, where he was twice awarded the Purple Heart. His first acting role came in 1954 in the Broadway play, The Caine Mutiny Court Marshall. He then signed a contract with Warner Brothers and took bit parts on television in the “Cheyenne” series. His breakthrough role came in the movie Sayonara, which led to his starring role as the witty, card-playing Bret Maverick in the popular TV Western series (1957-1962). Other outstanding television series included “The Rockford Files” (1974-1980), “Chicago Hope” (2000) and “8 Simple Rules” (2002). His more than 40 major motion pictures include The Americanization of Emily, Victor/Victoria, The Great Escape, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Space Cowboys, The Notebook, and Murphy’s Romance, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1985. He has received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and two People’s Choice Awards. In 2003 he donated $500,000 to OU for the James Garner Chair in Drama. The Screen Actors Guild presented him the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 and, in 2006, he was honored with a heroic-sized bronze statue of a young Bret Maverick on the James Garner Corridor at West Main in Norman.
At 16, James Garner left Norman High School and joined the Merchant Marines. After suffering from chronic seasickness, he was discharged and at age 17 joined his father and attended California’s Hollywood High School. While there, he modeled Jantzen bathing suits and it wasn’t long before a poster of Garner, clad in a bathing suit, was displayed in downtown Norman’s Hale’s Department Store.
Garner was born in Norman, Oklahoma.