Woodward Maurice Ritter, better known as Tex Ritter, was an American country music singer and movie actor popular from the mid-1930s into the 1960s, and the father of actor John Ritter. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Ritter was born in Murvaul, Texas, the son of James Everett Ritter and Martha Elizabeth Matthews. He grew up on his family’s farm in Panola County and attended grade school in Carthage. He attended South Park High School in Beaumont. After graduating with honors, he entered the University of Texas at Austin; he studied pre-law, majoring in government, political science and economics.
An early pioneer of country music, Ritter soon became interested in show business. In 1928, he sang on KPRC-AM in Houston, a 30-minute show featuring cowboy songs. That same year, he moved to New York City and landed a job in the men’s chorus of the Broadway show The New Moon. He appeared as The Cowboy in the Broadway production Green Grow the Lilacs, the basis for the musical Oklahoma!. He also played the part of Sagebrush Charlie in The Round Up and Mother Lode. In 1932, he starred in New York City’s first broadcast Western, The Lone Star Rangers on WOR-AM, where he sang and told tales of the Old West. Ritter wrote and starred in Cowboy Tom’s Roundup on WINS-AM in 1933, a daily children’s cowboy program aired over two other East Coast stations for three years. He also performed on the radio show WHN Barndance and sang on NBC Radio shows; and appeared in several radio dramas including CBS’s Bobby Benson’s Adventures and on the syndicated TV show Death Valley Days.