Ardmore Oil Millionaire Jake Hamon's
Death still a Mystery

Copyright The Daily Ardmoreite
Centennial Edition
Ardmore, Oklahoma
June 21, 1987


On November 21, 1920 Ardmore oil king and potential political power Jake L. Hamon stumbled into Hardy Sanitarium with a gunshot wound.

The prominent Ardmoreite claimed he had been cleaning a gun when it went off, injuring him. Six days later, he died.

Although the incident happened in a small, insignificant town north of the Red River, headlines all over the United States screamed. Hamon was not just a rich oil man from a small town. He was a Republican National committeeman and was slated for a post in President Warren Harding's cabinet.

Thus began probably the most sensational story and trial to ever come out of Ardmore in its 100 years existence. The drama not only drew local attention, but writers from prominent newspapers all over the nation flooded the town to cover the scandalous story.

Hamon's lover, Clara Smith Hamon, was alleged from the beginning to have fired the fatal shot into the body of Hamon. The oil king and his secretary, Clara Smith Hamon, had been staying at the Randol Hotel in Ardmore for some time.

According to an account written in The Daily Oklahoman before the trial on March 10, 1921, Clara may have shot Hamon to protect herself from his alleged brutality toward her. However, others believe the secretary shot Hamon because he was breaking off their scandalous love affair. The story alleges that Hamon claimed to have shot himself to avoid a scandal he knew would occur if the "real story" ever got out.

Clara disappeared the day after the shooting, and the people of Ardmore became more convinced that she was the one who fired the fatal shot. The sheriff at the time, Buck Garrett, was believed to have known Clara's whereabouts, but he would not divulge the information with reporters.

Historical reports show that a prominent Chicago newsman, Sam Blair, found out that Clara was in Mexico, and he went there to talk to her. His hunch was correct, but before he could convince her to come back, she had already made arrangements with the sheriff to return.

Sheriff Garrett escorted her back to Ardmore to stand trial for the shooting of Hamon. Newspaper reports show she was let out on a $12,000 bond, which was signed by some of the most prominent businessmen and professional men of Ardmore, reportedly, not that they believed her innocent, but thought she might have been justified.

Information against Clara was filed by County Attorney Russell Brown. The case was brought before District Judge Tom Champion.

Clara's defense team consisted of some Ardmore heavyweight attorneys of the day - Jimmy Mathers, Charley Coakley, Joe Ben Champion, (twin brother of the judge hearing the case) and attorneys from Fort Worth and Chicago.

The prosecution team was headed by state Attorney General Prince Freeling, assisted by H.H. Brown and Russell Brown.

Testimony went on for seven days and the decision was left up to the jury on March 17. After only 39 minutes of deliberation, the jury filed into the court and handed a verdict of not guilty.

The verdict was really no surprise, a historical account written in the 50th anniversary edition of The Daily Ardmoreite reported.

According to Hamon's history in "Indian Territory and Carter County Pioneers," the crime was listed as unsolved.

However, the case did provide a great deal of entertainment in those days - the kind of stuff television miniseries are made of.

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Last Modified May 6, 1996