The real estate of the rich and famous interests many of us. Common folk want to know how they live and whether there are limits on opulence.
What if we had a similar tour in Norman? Here’s a few properties of local celebrities that have changed hands in recent years.
The back room of the old Denver Corner Grocery on east Alameda Street was reportedly the 1928 birthplace of James Bumgarner. Most know him as James Garner.
The Denver community was covered in water after Lake Thunderbird opened in the mid 1960s. When the dam gates were closed, water slowly covered the old township.
Garner’s parents were Weldon Warren Bumgarner and his wife, Mildred Scott (Meek). She died five years after James’ birth. James and his two brothers, Jack and Charles, were sent to live with friends and family. After James’ father remarried, the family was reunited. James attended Wilson Elementary School, Norman Junior High and Norman High School.
Legendary OU coach Bud Wilkinson lived in a house on south Lahoma Street. He moved to Norman to take on an assistant Sooner coaching job after World War II, in which many of his players had served. He took over as head coach in 1947 when Jim Tatum left for the Maryland coaching job.
Bud reportedly liked the Lahoma Street house because he could walk to practice or walk home for lunch.
He later moved to a home on Brookside, south of Lindsey Street and west of Pickard Avenue.
Edwin DeBarr was still in Norman when Bud Wilkinson arrived in 1946 although he had been terminated from the university for his racist and political activities many years before. He lived in a house on Chautauqua Avenue just north of Boyd Street.
Historian David Levy, writing in “The University of Oklahoma: A History, Volume 2” said “Daddy Debarr,” as he was known to students, was “a proud and committed Klansman and an unashamed racist.” He was the state’s grand dragon in the Ku Klux Klan. While in his role as acting OU president, he threw his support and urged fellow Klansman to vote for a candidate for governor.
The anti-Klan candidate, Jack Walton, won the race and appointed new regents. On June 5, 1923, DeBarr was put on leave of absence without pay with the understanding that he would not return to campus, Levy wrote. In 1950, Debarr was severely beaten by a granddaughter’s husband. While recuperating from the attack, he suffered a heart attack and died at age 91.
The Norman City Council renamed DeBarr Avenue, just east of Campus Corner, Dean’s Row. University regents renamed DeBarr Hall as the Chemistry Building.
Conway Twitty, nicknamed the “high priest of country music,” lived in a custom home on Westwood Drive, backing up to the municipal golf course.
The home reportedly had a recording studio inside and a swimming pool shaped like a guitar.
Twitty’s hit songs included, “Hello Darlin ‘,” “Linda on My Mind,” “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” and “It’s Only Make Believe.” Twitty, who died in 1993, had 55 No. 1 hits.
The home was not far from one of his famous “Twitty Burger” restaurants in south Oklahoma City. He also had a home in the Hillcrest area of Oklahoma City.
Architect Herb Greene built the Prairie House on a section line road in northeast Norman while he was a member of the OU architecture faculty in 1960-61. He lived there with his family.
The home became instantly famous when Life Magazine published photos of it in 1961. A local group is trying to preserve the home as one of a few remaining examples of the Organic architecture made famous by Bruce Goff.
In an interview, Greene once told me a tour bus pulled up in his driveway. The driver gets out, looks at the odd-shaped Prairie House, and says to Greene.
“Is this where the tornado hit?”