An unbelievable cross-country foot race from Los Angeles to New York took place in 1928, dubbed “the Bunion Derby” by sports writers of the day. The race was organized to promote U S Route 66, which had recently been built as a well-paved route across the country and was called “the main street of America.”
Cyrus Avery of Tulsa, known as the Father of Route 66, was a remarkable man, whose passion for one road, U S highway 66 to become a fixture in the minds of America and the world with concrete-on-the-ground that would link the U. S. from coast to coast. The idea of a foot race across the country was born to calm people’s fears about driving long distances.
This was a grueling competition in which 199 runners entered the race. Only 55 men finished the 84-day race, which covered 3,422 miles. Andy Payne, a 19-year-old Cherokee Indian of Rogers County, Oklahoma, won the competition. He took the $25,000 prize money, paid off his family’s mortgage, and built them a new house. He triumphed in the face of overwhelming odds, simply because he believed in himself.
Andy never ran again, but entered a different kind of race. He ran for clerk of the Oklahoma State Supreme Court and won and continued to be re-elected until he retired in 1973. When he turned 40, he went to law school at night and earned a law degree.
Andy purchased land, and it paid off in the discovery of coal, gas and oil. He died suddenly in 1977, leaving his family a small fortune and a legend that is remembered by his Oklahoma people.
The Claremore Museum of History will present a documentary, The Great American Foot Race, produced by Dan Bigbee, Jr., of VisionMaker each Saturday at 1:00p for several weeks. The museum is located at 121 N. Weenonah Avenue. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.