Fox, Oscar Julius (1879–1961)

By: S. W. Pease

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: January 1, 1995

Oscar J. Fox, composer of western songs, was born on a ranch in Burnet County, Texas, on October 11, 1879. He was the son of Bennie and Emma (Kellersberger) Fuchs and grandson of Adolph Fuchs. Oscar’s mother died five months after his birth, and he was reared in the home of an uncle, Hermann T. Fuchs. He attended school in Marble Falls until 1893, when he went to San Antonio and began to study music. In 1896 he was sent to Zürich, Switzerland, by his grandfather, Getuli Kellersberger, to study piano, violin, and choral direction. After three years in Switzerland, he studied in New York City for two years before going to Galveston in 1902 as choirmaster of the First Presbyterian Church and later of St. Mary's Cathedral. He resigned in 1904 to accept a similar position at the First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, where he served for ten years. He was conductor of the San Antonio Choir Club (1913–15) and director of the men's and girls' glee clubs and the University Choral Society at the University of Texas (1925–28).

Fox was a member of the Texas Music Teachers Association, the Sinfonia Fraternity of America, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, the Composers–Authors Guild, and the Sons of the Republic of Texas. He published the first of his more than fifty songs in 1923. He never wrote lyrics but set existing poems to music. He first achieved fame through setting to music the cowboy songs collected by John A. Lomax. He drew strongly on his Texas background, as his best-known compositions illustrate: "The Hills of Home" (1925), "Old Paint" (1927), "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1924), "Whoopee Ti Yi Yo, Git Along, Little Dogies" (1927), "Will You Come to the Bower?" (1936), and "The Cowboy's Lament" (1923).

Fox married Nellie Tuttle in 1905; they had three daughters. The last fifteen years of his life he taught voice and was organist and choir director at Christ Episcopal Church, San Antonio. He died on July 29, 1961, while visiting in Charlottesville, Virginia, and was buried in Mission Burial Park in San Antonio. On May 27, 1962, the state honored him by placing a red granite marker a mile south of Marble Falls on Highway 281. Inscribed on the marker beneath his name is the first line of "The Hills of Home," his own favorite song and one that has continued to be popular around the world.

Daily Texan, October 18, 1925. Dallas Morning News, July 30, 1961. San Antonio Express, December 8, 1931. Lota M. Spell, Music in Texas (Austin, 1936; rpt., New York: AMS, 1973). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Carl Weaver, "Oscar J. Fox and His Heritage," Junior Historian, December 1963.
  • Music
  • Genres (Country)
  • Genres (Folk)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

S. W. Pease, “Fox, Oscar Julius,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995

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