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 Texas : Features : Columns : Bob Bowman's East Texas

Jim Reeves and Cheyenne

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
As a one-time reporter, I covered the funerals of numerous East Texans, but the one I remember the most was that of Jim Reeves, the iconic country singer who grew up at Galloway in Panola County.

Reeves and his pianist, Dean Manuel, died in 1964 when his private plane crashed near Nashville, Tennessee.

Reeves’ body was brought back to Panola County and buried in a two-acre memorial plot at Liberty Hill near Carthage. On the day of his funeral, the Shreveport highway was jammed with cars and people had to park miles away and walk the distance to attend the funeral.
Jim Reeves Statue Carthage TX Hwy79
Jim Reeves’ statue stands beside U.S. Highway 79 near Carthage.
Photo courtesy Bob Bowman
The son of Tom and Mary (Adams) Reeves, Jim was born James Travis Reeves in 1923. He attended the University of Texas and played for the school’s baseball team. He later pitched for Marshall and Henderson in the East Texas League, but a leg injury ended his athletic career.

In the 1940s, he became a disc jockey for KGRI at Henderson and began singing locally under the name Sonny Day.
Reeves soon built a music reputation in Texas and Louisiana, but had no real commercial success until 1952 when he signed a contract with Abbott Records. His second Abbott record, “Mexican Joe,” brought him a national following and led to a job as an announcer for KWKH ib Shreveport and appearances on the famous Louisiana Hayride.

A second successful recording, “Bimbo,” led to appearances on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and in 1955 he began recording for RCA Victor, producing such hits as “He’ll Have to Go” and ”Four Walls.”
Before his death, Reeves made three European tours and two trips to South Africa, where he starred in a film, “Kimberly Jim,” which was released the year following his untimely death.

His recording of “Distant Drums,” a song written by fellow Texan Cindy Walker, was released posthumously and in 1966 it was at the top of the U.S. and British charts. He became the first American to have a song named “Song of the Year” in the United Kingdom.
After his burial, a life-sized statue of Reeves was placed in the middle of his gravesite beside U.S. Highway 79.

But people seldom realize there is a second grave nearby.

His beloved dog, Cheyenne, was also buried there when he, too, died.


Bob Bowman's East Texas

May 24, 2009 Column
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 40 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com.)
Jim Reeves Statue Carthage TX Hwy79
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