Monday, October 4, 2021

Barney Oldfield Dies -- October 4, 2021

Washington Evening Star, 05-October-1946

Barney Oldfield was a pioneering race car driver. The first time he drove a car was when he drove Henry Ford's 999 in a race in 1902. He died 75 years ago today, on 04-October-1946. 

Barney Oldfield, 68, Famous
As Auto Racing Driver, Dies
Heart Attack Fatal;
Was First to Race
At Mile a Minute

(From. Yesterday’s Last Edition.)
By the Associated Press

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Oct. 4.-- Barney Oldfield, former famous automobile racing driver, died of a heart attack at his home here today. He was 68 last January. His wife, Mrs. Bessie Oldfield, found him dead in bed this morning. She reported he was alive and apparently well when she arose and left the room to get the morning paper. When she returned a few minutes later, she was unable to arouse him.

Friends said the former speed driver complained yesterday of a pain in the back of his neck but refused to have a doctor called, saying he would visit his physician today.

His widow and their adopted daughter, Mrs. Betty Kelly of Beverly Hills, survive him.

First Mile-a-Minute Driver.

There were many drivers who surpassed the marks established by Mr. Oldfield, but none whose fame was more enduring.

It was something more than the fact Oldfield was the first automobile racing driver; the first man to drive a car around a dirt race track at a speed of a mile a minute and first in many other phases of the development of automobile racing that fixed him in the mind of America’s motorists as the symbol of the "roaring road."

Oldfield was described -- with few to challenge the statement -- as the "greatest race driver of all time and the most picturesque figure the speed game has produced."

Mr. Oldfield began racing in 1902, when automobiles were "made" rather than "produced." Quantity production at the time was still a somewhat vague dream of Henry Ford. It was Ford who built the first racer used by Mr. Oldfield. Mr. Oldfield retired in 1918, scarred by many accidents, the idol of automobile racing enthusiasts. Berna Eli Oldfield, as he was christened, was born in Wauseon, Ohio, January 29, 1878. He went to Detroit originally as a bicycle rider.

Mr. Oldfield was married four times. His last marriage was in San Diego, Calif., December 29, 1926, when Huda R. Braden of Beverly Hills became his wife. He divorced her in 1945 and remarried his second wife.

After his retirement in 1918, Mr. Oldfield headed a tire manufacturing company bearing his name. Later he became connected with a Detroit investment house and just before the business crash of 1929 was estimated to possess a fortune of around $250,000.

After the crash he became associated with a Detroit automobile manufacturing company, with Billy Arnold, youthful speed star of the race tracks, as his assistant. Strangely enough, the veteran dare-devil of the unbanked dirt tracks was given the title of "highway safety adviser," his duties being to serve as adviser on safety features of automobiles.

Here is Barney Oldfield at the controls of the Ford 999. He was a bicycle racer who had never driven an automobile before he drove 999 in a race. 999 was named after a famous New York Central locomotive.

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