But what has Carthage, Texas, done to honor the famous singing star who grew up in Panola County? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Each year, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame holds an August event at which new members are inducted into the HofF, and there are a couple of days' worth of entertainment.
I find it an absolute disgrace that in this, the 50th year since Reeves' passing, not a single tribute was paid to Gentleman Jim at any of the shows, either Friday night or Saturday in August.
For years, a woman named Tommie Ritter Smith has predominated the scene there. Her father and Tex were first cousins, and her husband, Bill, often performs for groups as Tex, wearing an original Tex suit and hat. Tommie heads the local Chamber of Commerce and has for MANY years.
Although in some of my CD and DVD booklets I have even given the Hall of Fame there some free publicity, my help has never been reciprocated. Those people wouldn't lift a finger to help me during the time I was researching my book. I also know that Mary Reeves had her own bad encounters with them and that's one reason she established a Jim Reeves Museum in Nashville, and not in East Texas.
The 13,000 square foot, $2.5 million Texas Country Music Hall of Fame was opened in 2002 and was SUPPOSED to honor Texans who have made a contribution to country music. So why is it that there is a huge bronze statute not only of Tex, but also his horse (White Flash) outside the museum?
Tommie has admitted she wanted a Tex Ritter museum in Carthage. And Dorothy Ritter, Tex's widow, even objected to the inclusion of Jim Reeves in the Hall of Fame, dismissively saying that he already had a monument two miles out of town, so why did he need to be in the museum too? Can you believe that?
And yet the museum's original purpose has been diluted by the induction of NON-Texans, even though Jim's inclusion was debated!
Though Tex was a star on the Grand Ole Opry and appeared in many westerns, let's face it: Far more people know Jim Reeves around the world than they do Tex, and I dare say many more fans come from all areas of the globe to make the pilgrimage to Carthage to see Jim's monument than they do to come and see a Tex exhibit. It is indisputable that Carthage's local economy has benefitted tremendously over the decades from those Reeves tourist dollars. I wonder how much money Ritter has pumped into local coffers by comparison?
The politics of this situation have stunk for years. And that's putting it mildly. The Ritter influence is so strong, that there is now a "JOHN Ritter Showcase" music event on Saturday morning, which is ridiculous because the late actor (one of two sons of Tex) was NOT a singer, and never pretended to be. Yet he too is in the MUSIC museum.
Granted, there is a display of Jim Reeves memorabilia temporarily on loan to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame but apparently the officials there thought so little of it that for a long time they never even bothered to take out an insurance policy to cover it against theft or fire!
For years, California collector James Newberry tried to work with city officials to locate his huge collection of Reeves memorabilia there, to no avail.
Typical of how Jim gets short shrift is an article which appears in "Hill Country Current" by Allan Kimball, in which he erroneously reports that the museum includes "the original control room of radio station KGRI in Henderson where JIMMIE ROGERS worked as a disc jockey." Note to Mr. Kimball: The radio equipment comes from where JIM REEVES worked. Jim is not even mentioned in the article!
Now that Tommie Ritter Smith is retiring, her daughter Cindy Deloney has been groomed to take her place, so my guess is things aren't going to improve.
The 21 member board that oversees the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame should have honored one of its two most famous citizens, Jim Reeves, in this milestone year. It is shameful that they did not.
Meanwhile, if you're visiting Texas, drive over to Henderson and see some truly personal Jim Reeves artifacts on display there at The Depot museum, thanks to the singer's nephew, John Rex Reeves. I'll post more about that soon. Henderson is where Jim got his start at radio station KGRI.
SHAME ON CARTHAGE FOR IGNORING JIM REEVES THIS YEAR and especially on Tommie Ritter Smith's failure to use her enormous influence over the community to make sure this took place. But I can't say it comes as much of a surprise, considering how things have been handled there for years. Maybe the town should be renamed RITTERVILLE and they can re-cast that bronze statue and depict Tommie Ritter Smith riding Tex's horse like she's ridden roughshod over the city for so long.
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