The Texas Sports Hall of Fame, home of more than 300 Texas inductees, was originally conceived by Thad Johnson, the sports editor at the Beaumont Enterprise. Johnson spoke to the Texas Sportswriters Association during the 1949 Texas High School Coaches Association All Star Games in Beaumont about starting a hall of fame. The sports writers unanimously agreed with Johnson and established the Texas Sports Hall of Fame as a nonprofit organization in 1951. Baseball great Tris Speaker was the inaugural inductee on January 11, 1951, and Texas became the first state to honor its athletes with a hall of fame.
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame, under the guidance of Texas sports entrepreneur Lamar Hunt, constructed a two-story building to serve as the Hall’s first permanent location, which opened in Grand Prairie on Saturday, May 23, 1981. Exhibits displayed famous sports mementos such as Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias’s golf clubs, Willie Shoemaker’s riding boots, and Bobby Morrow’s Olympic gold medal for track and field from the 1956 Melbourne Games. The facility contained four theaters that showed instructional films and rare sports footage, and it offered programs on coaching, sports management, and sports research. For financial reasons the hall of fame closed in 1986 and remained dormant until several prominent members of the Waco community created a plan in 1990 to have it moved to Waco.
Waco had its grand opening for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on April 16, 1993. The museum also houses the Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame and Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame expanded to a total of 35,000 square feet in 2010 to include a new banquet hall; the Health, Fitness and Education Center; and a gallery and exhibit about the Cotton Bowl and Texas’s preeminent college conference, the Southwest Conference (SWC), which was a national power conference for most of the century until it broke up in 1996. The Southwest Conference exhibit displays the grand history of college athletics in Texas.
The hall of fame sponsors annual events such as the Bob Lilly Celebrity Golf Classic in Waco, a Nite at the Races Party, a sports memorabilia auction, and other fundraisers. Notable inductees include Doak Walker, Dana X. Bible, Bob Hayes, Roger Staubach, Earl Campbell, George Foreman, Ben Crenshaw, Lee Trevino, Rafer Johnson, Rogers Hornsby, Nolan Ryan, Mike Modano, George Gervin, A. J. Foyt, Carroll Shelby, Ad Toepperwein, Mary Lou Retton, Don Gay, Darrell Royal, Jody Conradt, and Tom Landry.