Tex Schramm, influential sports figure and president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, was born Texas Earnest Schramm, Jr., on June 2, 1920, in San Gabriel, California, to Texas Earnest Schramm, Sr., and Elsa J. (Steinwender) Schramm. Named after his father, who was from Texas, Schramm grew up in the Los Angeles area and graduated from Alhambra High School in 1937. He attended Pasadena Junior College in California for a year before enrolling in the University of Texas (UT) in Austin, where he studied journalism and played fullback for the football team his freshman year. He soon, however, left the playing field to write about sports for the Daily Texan. Schramm enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Randolph Field on December 18, 1941, and served during World War II. In April 1942 he married Martha Anne “Marty” Snowden; the couple had three daughters.
After his military service, Tex Schramm returned to UT and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1947. He worked as a sports writer for the Austin American-Statesman, before joining the Los Angeles Rams as public relations director later in 1947. He quickly rose through the leadership to become the team’s president’s assistant in 1952 and then the team’s general manager. During his tenure, he hired Pete Rozelle, who eventually became commissioner of the NFL. In 1957 Schramm accepted a position as assistant director of sports at CBS. During his time at CBS he pioneered the televising of the Olympic Games, beginning with the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, California.
Highly driven, energetic, and competitive, Schramm sought out an introduction to Clint Murchison, Jr., when Murchison planned to bring a professional football team to Dallas. Schramm was excited about the opportunity to build a team from scratch, and his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys began in 1960 when Murchison hired him as the new team’s first general manager. Schramm immediately hired Tom Landry, now one of the most famous coaches in National Football League (NFL) history, as the team’s head coach. During his time as Cowboys general manager, and later president, the team had twenty straight winning seasons, won thirteen divisional championships, five National Football Conference (NFC) titles, and two Super Bowls. In 1972 he helped introduce the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and in 1978 he proudly accepted the moniker of “America’s Team” for the franchise.
Schramm’s influence went beyond the Dallas Cowboys. In 1966 he helped orchestrate the merger of the American Football League into the NFL (which took place in 1970) and became chairman on the NFL Competition Committee, which he headed until 1988. In 1977 Schramm was named NFL Executive of the Year by Sporting News, and in 1978 he received the Bert Bell Award for NFL executive leadership. After the Cowboys came under new ownership in 1989, Schramm left to become CEO of the World League of American Football; he left in 1990 due to disagreements with NFL leadership. In 1991 Tex Schramm was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Schramm has been credited with NFL innovations such as using instant replays as an officiating tool (which originated during his time supervising the Olympics for CBS), the referee’s microphone, the thirty-second clock between plays, and multi-color striping for the twenty and fifty-yard lines. He has also been credited with suggesting the use of wild card teams in the playoffs.
Tex Schramm died at the age of eighty-three on July 15, 2003, in his Dallas home. His wife had died the previous December, and the two are buried together at Restland Memorial Park in Dallas. The Tex Schramm Scholarship program, managed by Schramm’s college fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, awards money to incoming UT freshmen each year in his honor. In an in-depth feature on Schramm in the May 14, 1989, edition of the Dallas Morning News, Schramm commented that he wanted his epitaph to read: “He made a difference. He made history.”