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
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
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
|Jim Reeves’ statue
stands beside U.S. Highway 79 near Carthage.
Photo courtesy Bob Bowman
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
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.
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 in Shreveport and appearances on the famous
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.
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.)