Phil Kennamer

1934 Tulsa Murder

In 1935, the American Justice system was on trial as much as Phil Kennamer, who was the son of a prominent federal judge in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Despite having a high-powered former state attorney general leading his defense, and prominent psychiatrists testifying that he was insane at the time of the murder, Phil Kennamer was convicted of manslaughter in the killing of his friend, John Gorrell Jr., shortly after Thanksgiving Day 1934. He was 19 when sentenced to 25 years in prison. Kennamer claimed to have killed in self defense and to protect the wealthy debutante Virginia Wilcox—the object of his affection. Virginia was the daughter of Tulsa oil man H.F. Wilcox. The murder took place in the Forest Hills residential area, the wealthiest part of the Oil Capital of the World, Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Ford sedan of John Gorrell Jr., the son of prominent physician John Gorrell Sr., came to rest at the triangular median of Victor Avenue and Forest Boulevard. When a key witness in the murder was found dead in his car under similar circumstances, it turned Tulsa upside down and became a national sensational story.

Our storyteller, Jim Freese, is the grandson of Virginia Wilcox Snedden Hagar. Jim was staying with his grandmother in Tulsa one weekend, when in a closet he noticed a small cardboard box filled with newspaper articles from 1935. His curiosity led to researching the story for the book Murder in the Name of Love: The Phil Kennamer Trial.

Interview with Jim Freese

Program Credits:
Jim Freese — Interviewee
John Erling — Interviewer
Mel Myers — Announcer

Honest Media
Mel Myers — Audio Editor

Müllerhaus Legacy Website Team
Douglas Miller — Art Director
Mark DeMoss — Webmaster
Laura Hyde — Upload Coordinator

Date Created: August 18, 2018

Date Published: June 28, 2019

Notes: Recorded by John Erling in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Digital Audio Sound Recording, Non-Music.

Tags: French Foreign Legion, St. John Hospital, Pawnee Oklahoma, Federal Court Judge, Philtower, Cascia Hall, Robert S. Kerr, Parachutist, Delaware County, Parole, Ft. Benning Georgia, Tulsa World, Great Depression, Murder, Virginia Wilcox, Oil Capital, John Gorrell, Sidney Born