Tyson, Paul Leighton (1886–1950)

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: October 26, 2017

Paul Leighton Tyson, football coach, was born in Hope, Arkansas, on October 25, 1886, the son of Marion and Sue (McDonald) Tyson. He moved to Santa Anna, Texas, with his family in 1890. He enrolled in Texas Christian University (when it was still located in Waco) in 1904, with the intention of pursuing a medical career, and played football and baseball at TCU for four years. He was offered a major-league baseball contract but refused it. Tyson graduated from TCU in 1908 and received an M.A. degree there in 1909. He worked at Tyler High School in 1911 as a science teacher and football supervisor and then taught for two terms at Denison High School. At Waco High School in 1913 he began his extraordinary coaching career; during the following twenty-eight years he became one of the best-known high school football coaches in the United States. He had two leaves of absence during that time: one in 1918 to serve in the army, and the other in 1931 to spend a season with Pop Warner, noted football coach at Stanford University. Under Tyson's direction the Waco Tigers won four state high school championships (1922, 1925, 1926, and 1927) and were in the finals on three other occasions (1923, 1924, and 1929). From 1921 to 1941 his teams won 167 games, lost thirty, and tied in nine. His most outstanding season was in 1927, the year he invented the spin play; in that year his Waco team was recognized as the unofficial national high school champion after soundly defeating Cathedral Latin High School of Cleveland, Ohio, in a post-season game, by a score of 40 to 14. His team won the national high school championship title in 1934. Tyson was widely respected and was often sought after for advice by college coaches. Knute Rockne, great Notre Dame football coach, once remarked that Tyson knew more about football than any other man in America. In 1942 Tyson left Waco High School to coach at South Park High School in Beaumont; he later coached at Jesuit High School in Dallas, after which he worked as a counselor at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas and taught at Westminster College at Tehuacana. In 1949 he returned to coaching, this time at Daniel Baker College in Brownwood; he was preparing for his second season there when he died on September 9, 1950, in Brownwood. He was buried in Waco. Tyson never married. He was elected posthumously to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 and also to the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 1963.

James Houston, "The Coach They Cannot Forget," Texas Parade, August 1961. Texas Sports Hall of Fame: Its Members and Their Deeds (Grand Prairie: Texas Sports Hall of Fame, 1981).

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Physical Education, Home Economics, and Health
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Sports (Football)
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Anonymous, “Tyson, Paul Leighton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/tyson-paul-leighton.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 26, 2017

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

Related Book(s):