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Category Archives: entertainers

Chill Wills

Theodore Childress “Chill” Wills was born on July 18, 1902 to a family in Seagoville, Texas.  His father was a farmer by the name of Robert Bruce Wills and his mother was the former Frances Elizabeth “Fannie” Rublee.  Chill was the youngest of six children of this union and his father Robert Bruce died in 1907 when he was only forty-four and Chill was five.  Robert Bruce Wills is believed to be buried in Oakland Cemetery in South Dallas.  It does not appear that this Wills family is related to the family of country singer/band leader Bob Wills.  Fannie Rublee Wills had married John Dunaway by 1910 and the couple were living near downtown Dallas with their family that now consisted of John, Fannie and seven children.  What eventually became of John Dunaway is not known at this time.  By 1920, Chill was living with his mother a little further out of downtown on Kings Highway and she was married to Allen E. Barse.  The census forms say that both Chill and his stepfather Barse worked at a saddlery in Dallas.

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Posted by on August 27, 2020 in biography, entertainers

 

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Jules Bledsoe

Famed baritone vocalist Julius Lorenzo Cobb Bledsoe was born December 29, 1887 in Waco, McLennan County, Texas to Henry Lee Devalt Bledsoe and Jessie Cobb Bledsoe.  His father died when he was still an infant and by the time he was about two and a half years old, he and his mother were living with her parents, the Cobbs, near downtown Waco.  His grandfather Stephen Cobb has been mentioned as a founder of Waco’s historic congregation, New Hope Baptist Church.  It was at New Hope where young Julius had sung solos by the time he was five years old.  In 1914, Bledsoe graduated as valedictorian of Central Texas Academy, founded by African American Baptists in 1901 in Waco.  From there, Julius went on to enroll at Temple College in Waco before transferring to Bishop College in Marshall, Texas where he earned his A B degree.

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Posted by on August 6, 2020 in biography, black history, entertainers

 

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Greer Garson

On August 6, 1939, the Harlingen, Texas Valley Morning Star read “Donat Stars In New Film” followed by the sub heading ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips” in Mercedes, Texas.  The article went on to describe the latest film of popular leading man Robert Donat.  Based on the James Hilton novel of the same name, the film tells the story of the life and teaching career of Charles Edward Chipping, a Latin teacher at a British boys’ school.  Donat’s character falls for and marries a beautiful and flashy young woman named Katherine, played by actress Greer Garson in her debut performance.  Revealed in a series of flashbacks, the film portrays the events in Chipping’s life and the individuals who were part of it.  Donat would go on to win an Oscar for Best Actor.  The film was the first major role in the long and successful career of Garson.  She was also nominated for an Oscar that year, but the award went instead to Vivian Leigh for her performance in “Gone With The Wind.”

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Posted by on July 16, 2020 in entertainers, films, schools

 

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Fess Parker, Jr.

Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. was born on August 16, 1924 in Fort Worth, Texas to Fess Parker, Sr. and Mackie Allen Parker.  His father had been born in California, but his mother was born in Texas.  His paternal grandparents Otis L. and Cora Lightfoot Parker had been a farming family in Comanche County, Texas and both are buried there.  Fess grew up in San Angelo and was a multi sport athlete there.  He graduated from San Angelo High School in 1939 and did a hitch in the United States Navy before coming back to Texas and enrolling at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene in 1943.

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Posted by on June 4, 2020 in biography, entertainers, films

 

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Debbie Reynolds

Debbie (Mary Frances) Reynolds was born April 1, 1932 in El Paso, Texas to Raymond Francis and Maxine N. Harmon Reynolds.  Raymond had been born in 1903 in Whitewright, Grayson County, Texas.  His father was a rural school teacher in 1910.  By 1920, Raymond’s father was working in the Post Office and the family lived in Dallas.  As of 1930, Raymond and Maxine had married and were living with Maxine’s family in El Paso.  Raymond was working as a carpenter for a railroad company.  That same year, their eldest son William Owen Reynolds was born to Raymond and Maxine, followed by Mary Frances (likely named for Raymond’s sister) in 1932.  Raymond lost his job in Texas during the Depression.  Reynolds was not embarrassed by her humble upbringing.  She would say of their life in El Paso that her mother took in washing and that they always had plenty to eat, even if her father had to go out in the desert and shoot rabbits.  By 1940, the new family had moved to Burbank, California where Raymond was working as a “tinder man” for Southern Pacific.

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Posted by on April 16, 2020 in biography, entertainers, films

 

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