Murray Thomas Earl
1899 - 1954
This photo of Murray Earl was taken on July 4, 1934 at the Kansas State Fairgrounds, Hutchinson, Kansas. His throttle stuck that day and he turned this car over on the south turn of that racetrack. It is unknown if this is the same car he raced at Winfield, Kansas just three weeks later – Charles Pauley collection
This photo was taken at Hutchinson, Kansas in 1938. Left to right, unidentified, Ted Davis, Bud Bennet, Murray Earl, and Waldo Barnett. Earl chose the number 75 for this D. O. Fronty Ford as he thought it sounded just like a 75mm French cannon he had heard during World War I – Don Radbruch collection
Murray Earl of Hutchinson, Kansas drove his own cars when he raced on Kansas racetracks in the 1930s. This photo was taken at July 4, 1940 at Hutchinson, Kansas. Waldo Barnett drove it on this day as Earl had retired from driving by this time. Note that the car has no number which is the way he often entered it - Roy Eaton collection
Monday, July 29, 1935 – Front Page:
Excitement at Anthony Races
Murray Earl, Alleged Criminal, Apprehended by Local Officers in Front of Grandstand
Although the automobile races at the Anthony fairgrounds yesterday afternoon were not patronized as they possibly should have been, only between 300 and 400 spectators being present, those fans who were present witnessed what is comparatively unknown to the average citizen – the apprehension of an alleged criminal. After the crack-up of four of his cars last Saturday afternoon at Winfield, Joseph Ziobro, Wichita promoter, furnished races better than might have been anticipated.
Three of the racing cars went through the fence here Sunday but none of the drivers were seriously hurt. However, the real thrill of the afternoon came when the apprehension of Murray Earl, former race driver and now a racing car owner, was attempted by Hutchinson officers who accused the defendant of driving a “got” car and having issued several worthless checks. Earl, alias Earl Murray and a score of other non de plumes, put up a fight and the visiting officers were unable to cope with the situation. However, with the help of City Marshal Carl Brand and Sheriff C. H. Foster, the defendant was quieted down and taken to the county jail from where he will be taken to Hutchinson to face the charges brought against him.
Another incident of interest occurred when the wife of the accused man attempted to get away with the automobile which officers were anxious to recover. Mrs. Earl was accompanied in the car by here two small children and attempted to make a “run for it”. Kenneth Foster, deputy sheriff, succeeded in stopping the woman by jumping on the side of the car and snatching the ignition key. The car was traveling at a speed of approximately 30 M.P.H. at the time. Mrs. Earl was released, since it was known that she was acting under the instructions of her husband who had shouted the orders to her just as the officers took him away.
Born Murry Thomas Earl on December 9, 1899 in Reno County, Kansas to Arthur William Earl (1880-1947) and Clara (Self) Earl (1882-1905); Murray often used various aliases and spellings of those aliases during his lifetime but his name is most commonly found spelled as “Murray Earl” in various records. He died on January 8, 1954 at Santa Clara, California and is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery at San Bruno in San Mateo County, California. His name is spelled “Murry Thomas Earle” on this death certificate and “Murray T. Earl” on his tombstone.
Murray was married at Hutchinson, Kansas to a young divorcee, Alice Faye (Chandler) Emry (1910-1997), and they were the parents of two children: Shirley Earl (1931-?) and Jack Arthur Earle (1933-2000).
The following was written by his son, Jack Earle. (Note: After Murray’s death, his widow changed the spelling of the families’ surname from “Earl” to “Earle”.)
Murray didn’t get into oval track racing until late in the 1920s. He was born in 1900 (sic) and served in World War I. He was married in 1926. He and his wife were natives of Hutchinson, Kansas.
Emmett Carpenter, Les and Beryl Ward, all say it seems like Murray was always there at the racetracks.
Murray had a very strong personality. When he arrived at a racetrack, he would almost immediately have a look at his opposition, walk the pits giving his opinions, recommendations, criticisms, good cheer, or whatever. You always knew when he was at the track. If one of Murray’s old drinking buddies asked him, “How are you?” He would many times say “Cold sober.” He wasn’t bragging, it just seemed to be funny to another drinker. If Murray met someone that he hadn’t seen for awhile, he liked to say “How are you, you old piss pot.”
Les Ward liked to tell about the time Murray crashed his race car into the pit gate at Belleville, Kansas. Les, who witnessed the crash, asked Murray why he lost control. Murray said, “I thought you held up a bottle of beer and I was thirsty.”
His best friend, Rea Bray, is apparently the one who got him into racing. Rea was a one time cop with the Hutchinson, Kansas police Department. He seemed to have had money and Murray always would end up with Rea’s ex-cars. Rea had a wife and a mistress for many years (and) said he loved them both. When he and his wife moved to California in 1939, his mistress soon followed.
Murray was a wild hard driver and he wasn’t going to let Rea beat him on the track. Rea, who was a very careful driver, told Murray several times, “Murray, you better be more careful or you’re going to get yourself hurt really bad.” What programs and newspaper articles I have showed Murray to be an excellent qualifier and “he” held several one-lap track records, however finishing a race was another thing.
His daughter, Shirley, was born in 1931 and when she was old enough to realize the danger involved, she started making things rough for him. He always wanted his family to go to the races. I don’t think babysitters were very available in those days.
This was a time when men were getting killed on racetracks in alarming numbers. The drivers, car owners, and racing promoters didn’t seem to fear anything and safety was almost unknown. Racetracks were just flat old horse tracks and the dust was almost unbelievable by today’s standards.
One of Murray’s contemporaries was a guy out of Los Angeles, California named Louis Durant. His wife would many times sit with Murray’s and the two of them were nearly hysterical from fear. Murray’s fearless wild driving made it even worse for his wife and daughter. To make things even worse, Fred Dresselhuys was killed in front of a full grandstand after running over the rear of Tex West and flipping at Belleville, Kansas in 1933.
If Murray would have had any money to buy good equipment, he might have become a real successful driver but The Depression was going on and it was tough just keeping food on the table.
In 1934, Murray met Waldo Barnett, an up-and-coming driver out of Oklahoma City. He was 7 years (sic) younger than Murray and the two of them got along well. Waldo moved to Hutchinson and they raced (throughout) Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas area for many years. Waldo was a real good driver and always made a good showing. They put together a S.R. Fronty that ran with the best of the D.O. Frontys. Murray was like a coach to his drivers. Most of the time, his advice was good.
Waldo Barnett was a real good driver (who) like to run up high close to the fence (and) loved to see how much dirt he could throw. Sounds like a little kid, doesn’t it?
Murray wanted Waldo to be more pushy but what Waldo really needed was a better car. He at times drove for an oil man out of Oklahoma City named Morris Grenard (or Gernard). The Grenard D.O. Cragar was first class and Waldo was successful in the car. I don’t know why he didn’t drive this car in a full time way.
Waldo didn’t have much luck with women in his life. (He was) married and divorced twice. His mother did not like Murray for his role in helping Waldo be a race car driver.
I remember a time when Murray and Waldo pushed the race car the D.O. Fronty into the lineup for a heat race. When they had the car positioned properly, Waldo stood up in the driver’s seat and yelled very loud, “All you guys in your %&$#@& Model A rocker arms get out of the way. I’m coming through!” He was usually successful when in this state of confidence.
Waldo’s worst racetrack habit was looking back to see how close his competition was. Murray warned him several times about this but in August of 1947, this bad habit caught up with him. He was driving for a guy named Leo Krasek and was enjoying a nice lead in a heat race at Ord, Nebraska. He looked over his shoulder and in just a split second, the car drifted off to the outside and into the guard rail. The car flipped end-over-end three times. Waldo was dead on arrival. He was the fourth driver to be killed in that car.
Murray was at the track that day with “Wild Bill” Anderson driving his Dreyer. Murray lost a lot of friends in racing but it never caused him to turn against the sport. He disliked midgets saying that they were the real killers in auto racing.
Jimmy Wilburn was Murray’s all time favorite driver and good friend. Wilburn was a cocky guy, a teetotaler, and an intimidator. I don’t believe that he ever drove any race car except the best. (It) always seemed funny to me that Wilburn’s passenger cars were always Nashes. Wilburn would usually talk to the drivers starting near him in the lineup. He liked to ask them what they were planning to do when the green flag was dropped. Some drivers just looked at him. Others took this as a challenge. He added that they had better give him room and stay away from his rear tires or they would be buried in dirt. This was probably good advice and very few men ever beat him.
A friend of Murray’s from Newton, Kansas named Jack Kannapel put together a car that was a copy of the very famous Leonard Kerbs #K-1. This must have been about 1937. He even got the D.O. Fronty engine from Kerbs for the car. Kerbs had given up on the (Model) T-Block engine with a four-port Riley cylinder head. Somehow, Murray obtained this car in a semi-finished condition. Everyone knew it was too late for the Ford T Block engine but he and Waldo surprised a lot of people with that little car and had a lot of fun doing it. Murray put the #75 on this car because it sounded like a French 75mm cannon that he heard in World War I. Murray was driving (it) in 1938 and crashed at Wakeeney, Kansas. His $14 crash helmet saved his life.
Murray could think of nothing but racing (and) to be racing in the Midwest (at) Belleville (Kansas), Ord (Nebraska), Hutchinson (Kansas), Topeka (Kansas), those places were like heaven to him but Pat Cunningham and Rea Bray moved to California and kept telling Murray how great it was. So, in 1941, off we went, first to South Gate and later up to San Jose.
Murray kept the D.O. Fronty head from the #K-1 car and brought it to California however, he didn’t bring any other racing parts and didn’t do any racing until 1946.
Murray had his own garage business all through the war. With the end of World War II, Murray sold the business and bought Lloyd Fisher’s Dreyer out of Longmont, Colorado. Murray put his old friend, Harry West in the car and they had a great year. Harry West got hurt real bad in another car later that year and never drove again.
I went to Los Angeles with Murray maybe late 1949 (sic. - it was more likely 1948) to run Carrell Speedway. I was a good size in 1949 but I wasn’t old enough to get into the pits. The promoter was J. C. Agajanian. He told Murray that he would take care of me in the stands. He was true to his word. He fed me, watched me, and sang gongs such as “Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild Wild Women.” (He) had a good voice. On this same day, Murray had some unknown driver in the car. I thought that the car wasn’t running right, however a short time later, a rather large driver was behind the wheel and suddenly the car came to life. The driver was Art George out of Seattle. He did a fine job on that half-mile paved track.
Bud Sennett was driving Agajanian’s car that day. A nice big Offy #9 with a pigs face painted on the side of the cowl. Aggie would shout when his car came by, “Slow down Porky.” Aggie raised hogs.
In my minds eye, I can still see the old Dreyer running nose to tailpipe with all those good old Offys and it sounded just as good. We ran sixth with Hal Cole in seventh.
Everyone that knew Murray knew that he was a fast driver both on the racetrack and on the highway. He always said, “You have got to make hay while the sun shines.” Whenever an open stretch of highway appeared, that would be the time to go fast. People told him many time about seeing him on the road but could not catch him. He only wanted to eat one meal a day so he would only stop for gas.
His old Lincoln V-12 had two carburetors and no air cleaner, just chrome stacks. He used 3:54 gears in the rear-end so that he could cruise at highway speed. People today think that they are in a high speed era and an old flathead Lincoln couldn’t go fast. Wouldn’t they be amazed if they were able to see Murray in his Lincoln (with) race car in tow? The carburetors could be heard moaning. Murray would shift her into high at 60 M.P.H. or more and cruise at 80 or 90 M.P.H. all the way across areas like Nevada and Utah. He didn’t seem to care how far it was from San Jose to Belleville, Kansas. He just sat behind the wheel and drove. If he got sleepy, he would park it someplace and take a nap. Many times, he would stop at a city park and take a nap on the grass. How times have changed.
The race car on the trailer made him a celebrity of sorts. Everyone wanted (to) get a closer look and ask questions about it.
Murray had been fighting high blood pressure for several years. One day in January of 1954, he had a stroke while working on a big truck. The doctors at the hospital said that he would be O.K. He was young, wasn’t heavy, and didn’t smoke however he died that night. He was 54 years old and he was missed.
To See What is Currently Known about Murray Earl’s Incomplete Personal Racing Record