"Born Woodard Maurice Ritter on January 12, 1905, "Tex" was the son of James Everett and Elizabeth (Matthews) Ritter of Murvaul, Texas, in Panola County. He died in Nashville, Tennessee on January 2, 1974. He became one of the best-known singing cowboys in western movies. Tex's youngest son, John Ritter, became a popular TV star in the '70s and '80s.
Tex lived with his sister while growing up in the Jefferson County town of Nederland. He graduated from South Park High in nearby Beaumont. While attending the University of Texas from 1922 to 1927, including a year in law school, Tex found his calling in the Men's Glee Club. He was greatly influenced by the folk music knowledge of, and cowboy folksongs collected by UT professors J. Frank Dobie, Oscar J. Fox, and John A. Lomax.
After a brief enrollment at Northwestern University, Ritter began his singing career at radio station KPRC in Houston in 1929. In 1930, he toured with a band throughout the South and Midwest. The following year, he joined the New York Theater Guild and appeared in Green Grow the Lilacs (the play that later served as the basis for the musical Oklahoma). In 1932, he became a featured singer in the Madison Square Garden Rodeo, which further established his "singing cowboy" reputation. He soon landed a starring role in "The Lone Star Rangers," one of the first western radio programs in New York."