Baker, James (Jimmie) Hollan | 1993
- Birth and Death Year | 1920 - 2003
- Induction Year | 1993
- Profession | Television Producer
- Oklahoma Connection | Baker was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and raised in Tulsa.
- Hometown | Tulsa
Jimmie Baker was only 15 when he appeared on CBS Radio’s “Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour” in New York City and met another of the show’s talented kids – Frank Sinatra. In high school, Jimmie formed an eight-piece band combo and all eight members enrolled at Oklahoma State University where they did a radio show called “Melody Matinee.” Downbeat Magazine ultimately named them the “Best College Dance Band in the U.S.”
“A standard resume wouldn’t cut it, so I did a thing called ‘Baker’s Pitch.’ I wrote it like a script for a sideshow barker. It was so unique that the head of production at ABC Television called me and asked if I’d like an interview. That’s how I happened to end up in television.” - Jimmie Baker, 1991
Oklahoma native James Hollan “Jimmie” Baker graduated from Tulsa’s Central High School and attended the universities of Tulsa, Arkansas, and Maine before graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1947 with his degree in education and taught junior high students in Oklahoma City. While in college he became a premier drum major and dance band organizer and during World War II directed an Air Force Band and prepared shows to entertain troops. He returned to Stillwater after the war and produced and directed the college’s Varsity Review and reassembled his combo, the award-winning Collegians, and toured the nation.
After settling in California, Baker worked in ABC’s mail room and, within a year, was an assistant producer, moving to television in 1950. He won five Emmys, multiple Angel Awards and an ACE Award, his star-studded productions included the pilot for “Laugh-In,” documentaries on Jazz, Errol Flynn, and “That’s Entertainment-50 years of MGM.” In the mid-1950s he developed and produced Stars of Jazz and, in 1962, Steve Allen's Jazz Scene USA. Baker also co-founded the Hollywood Motion Picture and Television Museum and was legendary in forming charitable organizations and benefits for important causes around the country. He was elected to the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1978 and received OSU’s Henry G. Bennett Award in 1991.