Statue of Sam Walton and his dog Ol' Roy.

Sam Walton Born, Bronzed Here

When we first heard that a statue of Sam Walton was being unveiled, we thought, ah-ha! Wal-Mart is finally fighting back against the TWO J.C. Penney statues that have dominated retail chain heritage road trips.

But it turns out that Wal-Mart had nothing to do with it. The statue was instead the idea of John Gooden, a civic booster and artist in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, which also happens to be the town where Walton was born.

"I figure out what it is I want to sculpt, and then try to sell people on doing it, and that's what happened in this case," Gooden told us. "And I was just really shocked that the world's largest business ever had not paid more attention to their founder.

"

Gooden, who also runs a business making urns for cremated pets, learned that Wal-Mart was building a new Supercenter on the south edge of town. He somehow got the landowner to make Wal-Mart promise that if it bought the land, it would sponsor a sculpture. And Wal-Mart, "the largest business in the history of the planet," according to Gooden, agreed.

Gooden told us that even after Sam Walton became a billionaire, he would return to Kingfisher with his dog, Ol' Roy, to go quail hunting. Gooden sculpted Sam and Roy together, with Sam's shirtsleeves rolled up, holding his dog, just a regular guy. This is not the first public portrayal of Ol' Roy, who is the star of the Ol' Roy Dog Food display at the Wal-Mart Visitors Center.

Gooden told us that Wal-Mart had been an ideal client. "They said, 'Okay. No changes. Just go with it,'" he recalled. The statue was unveiled at the Supercenter's grand opening on October 24, 2007.

Some local bloggers griped that the statue must have been made in China like everything else in Wal-Mart, and Gooden concedes that the corporation is not loved by everyone. "But regardless of how you feel about the affects of Wal-Mart on small town America," he told us, "I think everyone is proud that we have this claim to fame here."

As part of his campaign to fill Kingfisher with his art, Gooden has also erected monuments to two other local businessmen, and he plans to add a statue of a Cheyenne medicine man named Lame Bull, and of "a black minister who used to dance down at the railroad station. Apostle Paul Sykes, they called him."

[10/28/2007]
Address:
200 Starlite Drive, Kingfisher, OK
Directions:
Two miles south of town. Take US Hwy 81 to Starlite Drive, turn right (west), then turn right into the Walmart Supercenter. The statue is in a little plaza just north of the street.
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