FITZ, GEORGE (DORD) EDWARD (1914–1989).
An artist, teacher, and gallery owner, George Edward Fitz was born in Ontario, Oregon, on April 17, 1914, to Arba Virgil and Lee Ella Brewster Fitz. Because of a childhood lisp, he pronounced his first name "Dord," but he did not use the name officially until 1933. In 1928 the Fitz family moved to northwestern Oklahoma to lease a ranch on Commission Creek from Bill Bannister, and Dord Fitz grew up in the area, eventually enrolling at Northwestern State Teachers College (now Northwestern Oklahoma State University) in 1933. He was initially interested in music, but instructor Ruth Boyce encouraged him to pursue the visual arts. In 1935 he transferred to Eastern Kentucky State University, earning a bachelor of arts degree in 1935.
For a brief time he worked as the Harlan County Schools art coordinator. In 1938 he continued his studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and married Agnes Edmunds the following year. The couple would have three children, Brewster Edmunds, Dale Edward, and Carolyn Emerson. In 1940 Fitz pursued a master of fine arts degree at the University of Iowa, studying with Grant Wood and Philip Guston and receiving his degree in 1943. During this time Fitz returned to teach at Eastern Kentucky State University in 1940 and in 1947 left for a position at the University of Kentucky in 1947.
His tenure was short lived, and in 1951 he returned to the Bannister Ranch, which he had recently purchased. Fitz taught private classes in Arnett, Oklahoma, and in 1952 remodeled An Ellis County school building at Beum to establish the Western Art Center. It became known popularly as "the Little Red Schoolhouse." Although Fitz continued to teach in northwestern Oklahoma, he relocated to Amarillo, Texas, in 1953 and opened the Dord Fitz School of Art and the Dord Fitz Gallery. In 1954 he organized the Creative Arts Association, a group of students and collectors committed to the growth of the visual arts; the organization was renamed the Area Arts Foundation in 1959.
Fitz continued to practice as an artist and teacher, but he became an ardent proponent of modern art after meeting the abstract expressionist Milton Resnick circa 1957. Afterward, Fitz organized several exhibitions of modern art in Amarillo, most notably "The Women," or "All Woman Group Show" in 1960, featuring works by Elaine de Kooning and Louise Nevelson, among others. Fitz continued to teach classes in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles until late in life and remained a strong supporter of modern art. Dord and Agnes Fitz retired to the ranch in the 1980s. He died in Shattuck, Oklahoma, on October 14, 1989.
Dord Fitz Papers, Western History Collection, University of Oklahoma, Norman.
Graziella Marchicelli and Carolyn Fitz, The Broadcast Is Always On: The Area Arts Foundation and Dord Fitz (Amarillo, Tex.: Amarillo Museum of Art, 2007).
Mark Andrew White, Macrocosm/Microcosm: Abstract Expressionism in the American Southwest (Norman, Okla.: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 2014).
The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Mark Andrew White, “Fitz, George (Dord) Edward,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=FI014.
© Oklahoma Historical Society.