James Byron Dean was born at the "Seven Gables" apartment house at the corner of 4th and McClure Streets in Marion, Indiana, ten miles north of Fairmount, on February 8, 1931. Jimmy was the only child of Winton Dean, who was a dental technician, and Mildred Wilson Dean.
The family moved to Fairmount shortly after Dean's birth. During the five years they lived in Fairmount, they resided in three different homes within the town limits and a small home located at the north edge of the Winslow farm. The family left Indiana for California when Dean was five years old. When his mother died at an early age, nine-year-old James Dean was sent to Fairmount to be raised by his paternal aunt and uncle, Ortense Dean and Marcus Winslow. Dean's mother is buried in Grant Memorial Park in Marion.
James Dean started school at the Fairmount West Ward (Old Academy) and in 1945 went to Fairmount High School. He was an average student, but excelled in sports, art, drama and band.
After graduation Dean went to California where his father lived and attended Santa Monica City College, where he first majored in pre-law, and later UCLA, where he was a theatre major. His first acting job was in a Pepsi commercial for which he earned $30. He got bit parts in a couple of movies, but wanted more important roles.
In September of 1951 James Dean left Hollywood for New York City to get into "serious" acting. He was cast in several live television dramas before being cast in his first Broadway play, "See the Jaguar."
It was in his second Broadway play, "The Immoralist," that he was spotted by director Elia Kazan, who had him screen tested and flown back to Hollywood to star in the leading role in John Steinbeck's classic, "East of Eden." He immediately went on to make "Rebel Without A Cause" with director Nick Ray and co-stars Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo.
His third film was the Edna Ferber epic, "Giant," which co-starred Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. All three films were made within sixteen months.
On September 30, 1955, James Byron Dean was driving his new 550 Porsche Spyder to Salinas, California, where he planned to enter it in a race. At 5:45 pm at the intersection of Routes 466 and 41 near Cholame, a 1950 Ford turned in front of the sports car and Dean collisided with it.
At the age of 24, with only "East of Eden" released to the public, James Dean was dead. "Rebel Without A Cause" would open one week later.
Dean's body was brought back to Fairmount and laid to rest in the Winslow family plot in Park Cemetery, one-half mile north of Fairmount, a short distance from the farm home where he grew up. Funeral services were held at the Friends Church, 124 W. First Street, Fairmount, on October 8, 1955.
James Dean's Last Ride
Warren Beath is an author who claims to have seen the ghost of James Dean. He says he first saw JD's ghost when he was 18. He had already heard the stories of a ghostly hitchhiker walking up and down the Polonio Pass, and on the anniversary of JD's death he reports seeing a figure in a red jacket, jeans and a white bloodstained t-shirt . Warren was driving with a friend at the time and both thought it must have been a joke. But when they turned to look back he was gone.
The haunted section of the motorway is the by-pass section of the Highway, and it was written about in an American magazine called Whisper in 1957.
The sound of screeching breaks and crashing have been heard on still nights. Radio stations change over and Beath says it's as if "chunks of time just disappear".
The scene of the actual accident is also interesting. It lies very close to the San Andreas Fault line, and there is an old Indian settlement with a burial ground very near the crash site, called Cholame.