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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

OUR CELEBRITIES

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
When I travel eastward out of Carthage, I sometimes stop at the grave of country singer Jim Reeves near the community of DeBerry.

I'm fascinated that such a celebrity would be buried beside the highway in such a remote part of East Texas, far removed from a cemetery, in a place that once was the corner of a pasture.

Over the years, I've tried to catalog as many East Texas celebrities as I could. The job is incomplete, and I continue to be amazed how many famous people are from the Piney Woods. Some of them are buried here; some are not.

Here is a portion of my East Texas Celebrity Collection.

*Karen Silkwood, the center of a anti-nuclear movement in Oklahoma and the inspiration for a movie, is buried in Kilgore. This may be the least-known celebrity grave in East Texas.

*Sam, the piano player from the old Humphrey Bogart movie, "Casablanca," was played by Dooley Wilson of Tyler, who played in East Texas clubs before he migrated to Hollywood.

*Fred Lowery, the blind whistler whose rendition of "The High and The Mighty" in the John Wayne movie sold 1.7 million records, is buried in Jacksonville's Old City Cemetery. Lowry was born at Palestine.

*Dan Blocker, who achieved television fame as Hoss Cartwright on the old Bonanza television series, is buried in Woodman Cemetery at DeKalb, where his family lived.

*Hudie (Leadbelly) Ledbetter, the guitarist who wrote such famous songs as "Goodnight Irene" and "The Midnight Special," was born around Marshall and spent much of his lifetime playing in clubs and honky-tonks in East Texas. He is buried in a Louisiana churchyard.

*Pete Runnels, who won two American League batting championships while playing for the Boston Red Sox, grew up at Lufkin.

*Scott Joplin, the great ragtime composer, is one of Texarkana's most famous native son. He is buried in a pauper's grave in New York.

*Wiley Post's grave doesn't lie in East Texas either (he is buried in Oklahoma). But the world-famous aviator was born in l899, near Grand Saline.

*Audie Murphy, idolized by millions as a war hero and movie star, grew up in Greenville. He is buried in Washington's Arlington National Cemetery.

*Born at Murvaul in l907, movie star Tex Ritter was christened Woodward Maurice Ritter and intended to be a lawyer instead of a singer. He is buried at Port Neches.

*Janis Joplin, the great blues singer, grew up in Port Arthur and made local folks grimace at her wild, free-love lifestyle.

*Stuart Hamblen, the gospel musician who wrote "It Is No Secret" and "This Old House," was born at Kellyville near Jefferson.

*Country and western singer Ray Price, who wrote some of the country's biggest hits, is a native of Uphsur County.

*George Jones, the country and western singer, was born at Saratoga in the Big Thicket.

*Aubrey (Moon) Mullican, known for his honky-tonk piano style, got his start playing an old family pump organ in the pineywoods settlement of Rock Island.

*Al Dexter, another honky-tonk musician whose "Honky Tonk Blues" in l936 may represent the first use of the term in a song title, was from Jacksonville.

*Johnny Horton, a country and western musician who became the king of dozens of ballads such as "Johnny Reb" and "North to Alaska," was from Tyler.

*Marion G. Slaughter, born at Jefferson in l833, wrote hundreds of top songs, including "The Prisoner's Song" and "The Wreck of the Old 97" as Vernon Dalhart, a pseudonym taken from the names of two Texas towns.


All Things Historical >
October 7-13 , 2001 Column
Published by permission
.
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(Bob Bowman is a former president of the East Texas Historical Society and the author of 24 books on East Texas history and folklore. He lives in Lufkin.)
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Readers' Comments:

Please add country singer and songwriter Jeremy Castle to your list. Jeremy ( http://www.JeremyCastle.com ) attended kindergarden at East Texas University in 1980 in Commerce, Texas at the kindergarden at the university, which was founded by his grandfather A.D. Castle.

Your site missed blues player Ivory Joe Hunter. He died in Memphis in 1974 but was born in Kirbyville, Texas in 1914. He was a very prolific writer with some of his songs being covered by Sonny James, Pat Boone, and Elvis Presley. Hunter's songs were on the R & B charts (I Almost Lost My Mind #1 & I Need You So #2 in 1950) , the pop charts (His Since I Met You Baby was # 12), and he later was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry. Check out a web site on him at www.tsimon.com/hunter.htm - Phyllis Martin

 
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