The Life of Roy Clark, an exhibit with over 75 photographs, awards, plaques, musical instruments, rifles, costumes, and records from Roy Clark’s 50-year show business career, is set to open Thursday, August 5, at the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum in downtown Claremore.
“Clark had an exciting life,” said Davis Museum’s executive director, Wayne McCombs. “Most of us know about his music and TV career, but how many know that he was also a pilot, a drag car racer, or antique rifle collector? He was a remarkable man.
“The idea for the display came from a conversation I had with Clark’s long-time manager, Jim Halsey,” McCombs continued. “I asked if Roy had any firearms we could display in the museum. Halsey said that he had several rifles, but there was a lot more to Clark’s story. When Halsey showed Clark’s collection to our curator Jason Schubert and myself, we couldn’t believe the number of awards and artifacts. We kept asking him, ‘How about this trophy or that award. May we display those, too?’ We are grateful to Mr. Halsey and Clark’s widow, Barbara, for the opportunity to share these parts of Roy’s life with the public.”
Halsey commented, “Roy was a top entertainer of his era. He was often a guest host on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, he appeared on Broadway, played the largest venues in Las Vegas, had a 20-year run on the TV show Hee-Haw, and won numerous awards from the music industry.”
Among the artifacts are many musical instruments, including the banjo and guitar Clark played on Hee-Haw. The collection also contains Clark’s platinum record Yesterday, When I Was Young, a book depicting his landmark visit to Russia in 1976, and several rifles, including an antique from the Civil War.
Roy Clark moved to Tulsa in 1974 and donated time and money to charitable causes. From 1976 to 1983, he hosted the Roy Clark Charity Golf Tournament to benefit Children’s Medical Center. Prominent names such as Bob Hope, Glen Campbell, Jimmy Dean, Mickey Mantle, The Oak Ridge Boys and former President Gerald Ford came to Tulsa to help “Roy’s Kids” at the Medical Center.
In 1976, Clark became the ‘first Country Music performer’ to perform in the Soviet Union. His showmanship helped pave the way for future peace talks between the Americans and Russians. A documentary was produced during Clark’s tour and the film will be shown later in the fall at the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore.
Clark also helped save professional baseball in Tulsa. The Tulsa Oilers had moved out of the city due to inadequate facilities, so in 1977, Clark and Tulsa businessman Bill Rollings purchased a double-A team and moved it to Tulsa. Then he sponsored a telethon in 1979 to raise money to build a new Tulsa baseball facility.
The J.M. Davis Museum is the largest privately-held arms collection in the world. It contains 11,000 weapons and has over 50,000 on display. The museum is located in downtown Claremore at 5th Street and Highway 66.
For more information, call 918-341-5707 or go to: thegunmuseum.com.