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Legendary OU quarterback Jimmy Harris dies

By Berry Tramel, Staff Writer, btramel@opubco.com Published: August 9, 2011

Jay Wilkinson drove to Shreveport, La., the other day to say goodbye. His dad’s greatest general was dying.

Jimmy Harris, who in the 1950s went 25-0 as Bud Wilkinson’s starting quarterback at Oklahoma, died Monday night of lung cancer. Harris was 76.

“Surely one of the great players to ever play at the University of Oklahoma,” Jay Wilkinson said. “He and my dad had a very strong bond.

“I was in junior high at the time he was playing. Certainly, he was my role model. Just such a dynamic, complete player. Strong and tough. He was such a key part of that great, great tradition.”

Harris came to OU from Terrell, Texas, where he won a state high school championship. After OU, Harris played four years in the NFL, then became a successful oil man in Louisiana.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Shreveport, under the direction of Osborn Funeral Home.

Harris quarterbacked more than half the victories in OU’s epic 47-game winning streak, a major-college record that still stands. Harris took over for the injured Gene Calame in the second game of 1954 and started the next four games. Calame (who also finished his career unbeaten as a starter, 15-0) resumed his spot for the final four games of that season. Then Harris quarterbacked the national championship Sooner teams of 1955 and 1956.

“Jimmy was just such an outstanding quarterback,” said Bill Krisher, a guard on those Sooner teams. “He just seemed to be able to call all the right plays. Always on top of the game and knew the game plan well. I think Bud had a great deal of confidence in Jim.”

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