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HUNTER, CECIL

HUNTER, CECIL (1909–1986). Cecil Hunter, entertainer and radio broadcaster, was born in 1909 on a farm near Elk City, Oklahoma. As a child he developed an uncanny ability to imitate barnyard animals, a trait that quickly brought him attention at school assemblies, Boy Scout meetings, and church gatherings. After graduating from high school he attended the University of Oklahoma, where he studied dramatic art. Afterward he hopped a freight train to New York City to audition for a movie, only to discover that the film company to which he had applied had gone out of business. Undaunted, he performed with the Harmonicats at a New York nightclub and worked at various other jobs. After returning to his home state in 1933, Hunter began his broadcasting career in Oklahoma City with three different stations simultaneously and also began making appearances at school assemblies. In 1934 he married Anne Fritsche at Elk City; they had two children.

Hunter's professional career gained momentum in 1936, when he helped open radio station KPDN in Pampa, Texas. The following year he moved to Amarillo and became a business associate of Cal Farley. He immediately became a star performer in Farley's "Flying Dutchman Circus," staged for area civic clubs and conventions, and a regular on Farley's daily radio program. Originally Hunter's act included a red wig and costume, which he discarded during an appearance at Albuquerque when the paraphernalia failed to arrive on time. After that, his format was simply for him to be introduced as a speaker, instead of as a comic, on the program. He would stumble up on a stage and begin to stammer and stumble verbally. His audience squirmed in sympathy until they realized the extent of the joke. Hunter's double-talk and stuttering kept radio listeners laughing for fourteen years, and he gained the sobriquet "Stuttering Sam." As Farley's sidekick, "Sam" also helped make humorous commercials for his employer's tire business. In 1940, with Farley's encouragement, Hunter performed his act at the Rotary International Convention in Denver, and from that time on he was in demand as a speaker and entertainer for conventions and various professional groups. He supported Cal Farley's Boys Ranch after its inception in 1939.

Hunter also maintained an interest in aviation. In 1942 he joined the United States Army Air Corps as a flight instructor, and with other instructors started the Amarillo Flying Service. In addition, he invented, patented, and sold an airspeed indicator. He remained in Amarillo until 1950, spent the next twenty-three years in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in 1973 moved to Sun City West, Arizona. He was inducted into the Western Oklahoma Hall of Fame at Elk City in 1982. Hunter died at Sun City West on September 24, 1986, and was buried at Elk City.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Beth Feagles Day, A Shirttail to Hang To: The Story of Cal Farley and His Boys Ranch (New York: Holt, 1959).

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

H. Allen Anderson, "HUNTER, CECIL," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhu78), accessed April 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.