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Famous People of Fairmount Indiana
The Fairmount Indiana area was first settled in the 1830s, although the town was not officially incorporated until 1870. Natural gas was found in the area in 1887 during the Indiana Gas Boom. Today, the town has a population of about 3,000 people. Despite its small size, Fairmount has been home to several famous people. You can find out more about them at the Fairmount Historical Museum, which was built in 1888 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
James Dean (The actor, not the country singer / sausage maker) is the best known celebrity from Fairmount. There is a great deal of James Dean memorabilia on display at the museum, as you might expect. When I stopped in sometime in the 1990s, Bob Pulley was manning the museum. After talking with him a bit, I found out that Bob was a friend and classmate of James Dean. Although he has become a bigger than life figure since his untimely death, Mr. Pulley told us about the human being. According to Bob, James Dean excelled at whatever he did, including all sports. The varsity letters and track ribbons on display seem to confirm this. Like many Indiana farm boys, basketball was his favorite sport, although he was only five-foot six. As you might guess, he played guard. Two rooms of the museum are devoted to Dean.
James Dean grew up on a farm north of Fairmount. He was born in Marion and lived in several houses in Fairmount before his father, who was in the army, was transferred to California. He moved to the farm to live with his aunt and uncle at the age of nine after his mother died.
After graduating from Fairmount High School, James moved to California where his dad lived. There he had little success, although he landed a few bit parts in movies. He then decided to try his luck in New York, where he found work in numerous television dramas and a couple of Broadway plays. His big break came when director Elia Kazan cast him in his film "East of Eden." Dean starred in two other movies "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant" before his death in a traffic accident on September 30, 1955 at the age of 24. His best-known movie, "Rebel Without a Cause," did not open until a week after his death.
James Dean is buried in Park Cemetery on the western side of Fairmount. There are often flowers or other items around his grave, which is next to those of his parents. There are usually kisses on the headstone.
Jim Davis, the creator of "Garfield", called Fairmount home. Like James Dean, he was born in Marion & grew up on a farm near Fairmount, where the family had 25 cats (I bet the mice stayed away from that farm). At one time Jim was president of the local Future Farmers of America chapter.
When he went off to college at Ball State University, Jim studied art & business instead of agriculture. After college he worked for an advertising agency before getting a job as an assistant on the Tumbleweeds comic strip. The first comic strip he developed on his own was Gnorm Gnat, which was published in the Pendleton Times newspaper. Despite great effort, Davis was never able to sell the strip to syndicates. One editor liked his art & humor, but told him "Nobody can relate to bugs." Taking that advice to heart, Jim ended Gnorm Gnat by having the title charcter stepped on, and created Garfield.
Garfield started with 41 newspapers in 1978 and quickly became a huge success. Garfield is now a huge business. In addition to the cartoon strip, there have been books & movies, and even a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Jim Davis now has a company called Paws to handle the artistic & business sides of his Garfield empire. The rejection of Gnorm Gnat (May he rest in peace) turned out to be a lucky break.
Like Jim Davis, Bob Sheets graduated from Fairmount High School and went on to Ball State University. From there he went on to the University of Oklahoma where he earned masters and doctorate degrees in meteorology. He headed the National Hurricane Center from 1987 to 1995. He became well known to the public from his numerous interviews on national TV during Hurricane Andrew. After retirement he co-authored a book entitled: Hurricane Watch: Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth.
Phil Jones was fascinated by radio when he was growing up. When it came time to head to college, we chose Indiana University because of its broadcasting options. His main interests were news and sports. On the fledgling Indiana University sports network, Jones was the color commentator with Dick Enberg as the play by play man. Enberg went on to a 25-year run with NBC Sports & called eight Super Bowls.
Phil eventually decided to focus on news. His first TV news job was in Terre Haute. From there, he went on to the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis. There he often did stories which CBS would use for its national broadcasts. Recognizing his talent, CBS assigned him to their Atlanta bureau. After a couple years there, CBS promoted him to correspondent and sent him to Saigon to cover the Viet Nam War.
During his 32-year career with CBS News, Jones won six Emmys for his reporting. His travels took him all over the planet, and he covered many big events. Perhaps the biggest was President Nixon's resignation in 1974. He had been assigned to cover Vice President Ford and was only 15 feet away from the president when he announced his resignation.
Where is Fairmount, Indiana?
- Fairmount Historical Museum
Features items related to Fairmount's history and famous residents.
- The Official Site of James Dean
James Dean; actor, photographer, race driver, artist & ultimate rebel is one of the greatest legends of the 20th Century
- Garfield and Friends - The Official Site
Features today’s comic as well as a comics strip archive, videos, games, news, shopping, history and more.
- Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame: Phil Jones
A synopsis of Phil Jones' long and distinguished news career.
- Grant County Indiana
Grant county travel and tourism guide