Claremore Daily Progress

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March 29, 2014

Lynn Riggs comes home


Today “Lynn Riggs” is the name of Claremore’s busiest street. Thousands of motorists daily use the north-south artery probably without realizing the local significance of the man the street is named after.
Fact is, it has been almost 60 years since Rollie Lynn Riggs came home to Claremore for the final time.  Funeral services were held July 6, 1954, for the well-known playwright and significant folk artist at the Methodist Church.  Burial was in the family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery under direction of Musgrove Funeral Home. 
Born and raised in the Claremore area, Riggs left home following high school graduation. His travels would first take him to Chicago and then to New York where he would find success as an author.  He would later move on to Santa Fe, Los Angeles, and Paris, France. He was back in New York at the time of his death.
Despite his absence from Rogers County and his failure to return often for visits, the author never forgot the friends and neighbors from home.  Many of them were inspirations for the characters in his plays that centered on his hometown.
It was said that a favorite pastime for his Claremore friends when a new play came out was to determine who he was basing the characters on. His beloved Aunt Mary Brice Riggs and older sister Mattie were the most visible. 
Riggs began writing his most famous play, “Green Grow the Lilacs” in the famous Café Les Deux Magots on the Left Bank in Paris in 1931. 
This play script made theater history in 1943 when Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein came together to form the musical “Oklahoma!”  It won a Pulitzer Prize and ran a record 2,212 performances on Broadway.
A slight man with fine, brown hair and gentle manners, Riggs never married. Although he dined  and visited with the famous Hollywood and New York personalities, he lived quietly during his final years. He died of stomach cancer at age 54.

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