By Don McAlavy: CNJ columnist
A newcomer to Clovis was asking if any famous people ever came to Clovis. I told him that one of the earliest famous persons to Clovis was Charles Lindberg, and his wife Ann Morrow Lindberg, and the famed pilot Amelia Earhardt. That was in 1929-1930 when Lindberg selected the air field, that is now Cannon Air Force Base, for the TAT passenger planes. Clovis became one of the national landmarks in the infant word of aviation.
The biggest crowd of celebrities to come to Clovis was on March 17, 1949. Some 19 movies stars stopped over at the train station on their way to the opening of the famous Shamrock Hotel in Houston. Clovis cattlemen Bud Williams and Ted Walhauser presented Dorothy Lamour with a 300-pound registered Hereford heifer while in Clovis to take with her. Some of the other movie stars were Pat O’Brien, Van Helfin, Andy Devine and Wallace Ford.
Will Rogers, the humorist, columnist, and well-beloved world acclaimed figure, was here in Clovis in 1929, flown in by a TAT plane, and the first person he wanted to see was Bob Crosby, the world champion rodeo cowboy from Kenna in Roosevelt County. Rogers also came through Clovis on March 5, 1932, on the way to Roswell to visit his son, who was a cadet at the New Mexico Military Institute. Again Rogers was here on April 19, 1933, when he was an impromptu guest at the Business and Professional Women’s Club banquet at the train station.
Movie stars were the most popular famous figures, such as Gene Autry who appeared on stage at the Lyceum and Mesa theaters on April 25, 1938. Mostly unknown were his parents, who lived in Clovis for a while in 1930. His father’s name was Delbert Rogers. Gene’s sister, Romadel, was born in Clovis. Gene’s uncle was Homer Autry, who helped start the horse sale auctions Feb. 6, 1936, at the stockyard here.
Smiley Burnett, nicknamed “Frog,” was one of Gene Autry’s comic sidekicks. “Frog” appeared in person at the Lyceum and Mesa theaters on Oct. 7-8, 1938. He appeared for the kids at La Casita Elementary School.
Roy Rogers appeared at the Lyceum, some say in 1938 or later, and Jimmy Wakeley, cowboy singer and movie star appeared in Clovis at the La Vista in its heyday.
Actor Buddy Rogers (husband of Mary Pickford) lived in Clovis with his parents for four years and the name Rogers-Awalt is still on the two story building in downtown Clovis.
The king and queen of Greece mixed with Clovisites at the train station in 1948. President Eisenhower was in Curry County in 1957 to check drought damage.
Ronald Reagan was at Hotel Clovis in about 1956 to read the Clovis News Journal.
Other famous people to Clovis were John Phillip Sousa, Nov. 14, 1928, and Sonja Heine, Olympic ice skater, date unknown.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: