The Tex Ritter Museum, established in Carthage, Texas, in October 1992, was spearheaded by Tex Ritter’s cousin and president of Panola County’s Chamber of Commerce, Tommie Ritter Smith. The museum, which initially was housed on the top floor of an antebellum home, the Hawthorn-Clabaugh-Patterson House, was expanded in 1997 to include the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. In order to make room for the expansion, the city built a $2.2 million, 13,000-square-foot structure that houses the current museum. Built to showcase Texas’s extensive contribution to country music, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and Tex Ritter Museum highlights the careers of a variety of native Texans who have had an important impact on the genre. With more than 500 country music fans visiting the location every month, the Hall of Fame and Museum has become a very popular tourist attraction. The facility includes lecture space to seat 300 and a commercial kitchen.
Carthage, an East Texas town with a population of 6,904, is located in Panola County near the Texas-Louisiana border. Although limited in population, this county has produced two of the most popular figures in country music—Woodward Maurice “Tex” Ritter and Jim Reeves. These two Panola County natives, along with influential Texas musicians from all over the Lone Star State, are well represented in the Hall of Fame and Museum.
Since 1998 the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and Tex Ritter Museum has inducted more than forty Texas artists, all of whom received a personalized plaque acknowledging the highlights of their lives and careers. Additionally it maintains a Disc Jockey Hall of Fame. The Hall itself is packed with a wide array of memorabilia showcasing the various contributions that these artists have made to country music. In addition to the individual artist tributes, the museum also includes a vintage movie marquee as a reminder of the important long-standing relationship between Hollywood and country music.
In 1998 the Hall of Fame announced its first inductees which included Cindy Walker, Tex Ritter, Willie Nelson, Jim Reeves, and Gene Autry. Many luminaries in country music have since been honored in the Hall of Fame, including Ernest Tubb, Hank Thompson, Waylon Jennings, Dale Evans, Bob Wills, Charlie Walker, Ray Price, Tanya Tucker, Kris Kristofferson, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Bush, Mac Davis, Jimmy Dean, Johnny Gimble, the Gatlin Brothers, Billy Joe Shaver, Mickey Newbury, Buck Owens, George Jones, Ray Winkler, Moe Bandy, and others.
Despite being relatively new, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and Tex Ritter Museum already has established an impressive pantheon of Texas musicians and seems destined to continue attracting more musicians and visitors well into the future. With the addition of new inductees each year, the Hall of Fame and Museum is helping to preserve and celebrate Texas music history for future generations of music fans.