On this day in 1936, musician Roger Miller was born in Fort Worth. He had no formal musical training and apparently never learned to read or write music. After service in the army, during which he entertained troops in a Special Services country-music band, he moved to Nashville, where he did odd jobs and played in back-up bands for such entertainers as Minnie Pearl and Ray Price. After Miller won a contract as a drummer with the Faron Young organization, other performers began singing his songs. In 1961 he first made the country top ten as a performer with "When Two Worlds Collide," co-written with Bill Anderson. He moved to Hollywood, where his singing career took off in 1964. "Chug-a-lug" and "Dang Me" were hits in both country and pop categories. The next year Miller scored a series of bestsellers: "King of the Road," "Engine, Engine No. 9," "Kansas City Star," and "One Dyin' and a-Buryin'." NBC featured Miller in his own weekly variety show, which fared well in 1966 but subsequently lost out in the ratings and was cancelled. Miller won eleven Grammy awards, both as composer and performer, in the categories of contemporary and country and western. In 1985 he received five Tony awards for his score to Big River, a musical based on Huckleberry Finn. He died in Los Angeles on October 25, 1992.
On this day in 1890, sculptor Bonnie MacLeary was born in San Antonio. At age six the precocious child fashioned her first sculpture out of clay from the banks of the San Antonio River. After her parents divorced, she was raised by her grandparents in Austin. MacLeary studied art in New York, Paris, and Italy and determined that sculpture would be her mode of expression. In 1924 her bronze Aspiration, displayed at the National Academy of Design three years earlier, became the first sculpture created by a Texan to be acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Despite a painful divorce and the destruction of many of her works in a studio fire in the mid-1920s, MacLeary’s career continued to flourish, and her pieces, especially her statues of graceful female forms, achieved tremendous popularity not only in the art world but also as replicas in jewelry stores. The Witte Museum in San Antonio and Baylor University in Waco display examples of her work. Bonnie MacLeary died in 1971.
On this date in 1974, Tex Ritter died in Nashville, Tennessee. The native of Murval, Texas, attended the University of Texas, where he was influenced by Frank Lomax and J. Frank Dobie. Some of his greatest hits were "Rye Whiskey," "Wayward Wind," and "You Are My Sunshine." His performance of "High Noon," from the movie of the same name, won an Oscar in 1952. Ritter appeared in eighty-five movies and starred in the television series "Ranch Party" (1959-1962). In 1964 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. John Ritter, his youngest son, starred in the popular series "Three's Company."