Larry Larkin

Claremore is a community that remembers its proud history. How else can you explain the number of memorials that have dotted the city limits over the years?

Remembering the past has been a major event for Claremore residents as they continue to build toward the future. And this trend doesn’t appear to be in danger of stopping.

Plans are underway for yet another place to honor the community’s history of standouts.

Since 1938 with the opening of the Will Rogers Museum, Claremore has honored its yore. Add the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum, Claremore Museum of History, the Oklahoma Military Academy Museum, and the annually growing Wall of Fame and we have a convincing statement.

Don’t forget we can add the former Long’s Wax Museum and the one time Doll House Museum that held spots on West Will Rogers Blvd. over the years.

Plans are now in full swing to add the Claremore High School Hall of Fame. Under the guidance of Athletic Director Duwayne King, a list of former Zebras will be honored as charter members this coming school year. It is hoped to happen at football homecoming events.

More details will be released as the special event approaches. Applications for the first class are now being accepted at the AD office at the high school field house.

More details can be obtained by contacting AD King or Claremore Progress Sports Editor Rick Heaton.

Over the past 55 years I have had the pleasure of seeing a long line of outstanding individuals decked out in Zebra Red & White…and now black. I have heard great stories of sports feats that go back even longer.

What follows is a short list of special “Zebras” that I would like to be considered worthy of Hall of Fame membership.

LESTER “BEAR” JENSEN

Although he didn’t graduate from CHS, no Zebra Hall of Fame could keep him out. Coach Jensen turned the Zebras into a football powerhouse in the late 1950s-early 60s. He added up the most football victories (76) and the highest winning percentage (.726) in school history.

JOHN SMITH

Mr. Zebra Historical. An all-around high school athlete, he was the first Zebra baseball player to be named to the All-State squad his senior year. After college he returned to teach 9th Grade Oklahoma history and coach junior high football and basketball. John also ran the time clock at Lantow Field for years.

BRYCE VANN

While he didn’t perform as a Zebra, Bryce certainly deserves a spot as a HoF’er. He attended Claremore’s Lincoln School before integration. In 1952 he led his team to the Class C state basketball title. He then played for Langston University and Central State and later pro ball with the Kansas City Steers and the Marques Haynes All-Stars.

LARRY BALLARD

According to the old-timers Larry was maybe the best all-around Zebra of all time. Named as a Junior All-American football player in 1959, he was also picked for both football and baseball All-State. He excelled in all sports. Instead of accepting a football college scholarship, he signed a baseball contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. An injury ended his ball playing days so he turned to high school coaching.

KENNY KINNARD

During the 1970s Kenny Joe was considered Oklahoma’s top high school senior running back by none other than Barry Switzer. He also stood out in baseball and basketball. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round in 1980. He played nine years in the minor leagues before retiring.

DANA LANTOW

A top performing individual when Claremore once again started girls’ athletics in the 1970s. Dana was a sparkplug on both the basketball and tennis courts. At the time when girls played only offense or defense, she moved from her forward starting position to guard whenever needed.

BOBBY TABOR

Not many Ninth Graders are called on to start on their high school basketball teams. Bobby did that exactly and not only started, but led his teammates in scoring all four years. Because Verdigris didn’t have a high school at the time, Bobby made the move to Claremore in grand fashion. When he graduated in 1976 he was Claremore’s top scorer, doing so before the 3-point baskets.

MARK CAMPBELL

With more than combined 500 victories in girls’ basketball and softball, Coach Mark lead all Zebra coaches by a wide margin. From 1995 until 2011 his teams won 342 of 435 basketball contests. This included three concessive state championships (2003-05) during 11 straight trips to the state tournament. In 1998 and ’99 his Zebra teams won state softball titles.

ERNIE SMART

A Claremore High School and University of Missouri graduate Ernie never played athletics. At the same time it is safe to claim he saw more games than most; serving as a newspaper writer. A Zebra sports director first, he started writing for The Progress while still in school. He later became a brilliant high school writer for The Tulsa World. He made it a habit of covering the “small” schools and quickly became Claremore’s unofficial ambassador of good will everywhere he went. He was a leader in the Elk Lodge’s punt, pass and kick program.

JOE FREEMAN

Claremore’s No. 1 Sports Fan. Due to physical problems Joe also never saw game action as a Zebra. That didn’t stop him from being a full time supporter of both the boys and girls that did play. Until his health put a hold on his activities he was a front row fan at all Zebra games.

This is my list for Hall of Fame membership. Have I left someone out that should be included? Probably…after all everyone has their own opinion. Many Moms and Dads and don’t forget the grandparents, will believe their “Jack” or “Jill” has been slighted.

As stated earlier, this is my personal choice for the charter members. Other selections will follow each year as I understand the plans. I urge all of you to let the officials know your thoughts.