You may not know it, but many celebrities have called the Beaumont area home at one time or another. From all-star football players and Grammy-award winners to the president of the Republic of Texas, and a musician so prolific that Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin still cover his songs, Southeast Texas is undoubtedly a hotbed of creative talent. And while we’re featuring these folks during Halloween, it’s purely a show of respect and not meant to be spooky.
Whether they were born here, grew up here, or were laid to rest here, paying your respects to these beautiful souls will take you to cemeteries lined with centuries-old oak trees, beautiful sculptures, and ornately designed headstones. Read up on these local legends because it’s more than worth learning about the interesting and prolific lives who called Southeast Texas home.
David G. Burnet - President of the Republic of Texas
Birth: April 14, 1788, Newark, New Jersey
Death: December 7, 1870, Galveston, Texas
Burial: Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston
Section C, Block 1, Lot 2
Best known for his efforts at the Alamo and his encounter with General Santa Ana, Burnet played an integral role in Texas's annexation and the settlement of colonies during the many battles with Mexico. Before his death, he served as the first Secretary of State of Texas, and Burnet County is named after him.
The Big Bopper - Rock Singer, Songwriter
Birth: October 24, 1930, Sabine Pass, Texas
Death: February 3, 1959, Clear Lake, Iowa
Burial: Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Beaumont
Block C, Lot 31, Space 3
J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson was a rock legend who graduated from Beaumont High School and studied at Lamar College. He was best known for his hit song “Chantilly Lace,” He was killed in the same plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens (La Bamba) at the age of 28. Before his death, he wrote the song “White Lightning,” which earned George Jones his first number one hit single. His fatal plane crash was memorialized in Don McClean’s song, “American Pie” as “The Day the Music Died.”
Babe Zaharias - Olympian
Birth: June 26, 1911, Port Arthur, Texas
Death: September 27, 1956, Galveston, Texas
Burial: Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Beaumont, TX
Intersection of Blocks C, I & K
Born Mildred Ella Didrikson, Babe is the most prolific athlete to ever come out of Southeast Texas. An All-American, AAU basketball champion, and a two-time gold medalist in golf at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, she was America’s first female golf celebrity, winning a whopping 92 tournaments. Named the 9th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN, she died at the age of 45 and is honored in the Hall of Fame of Women’s Golf, World Golf Hall of Fame, and the LPGA Hall of Fame.
“Blind” Willie Johnson - Gospel Blues Musician
Birth: January 22, 1897, Brenham, Texas
Death: September 18,1945, Beaumont, Texas
Cenotaph: Blanchette Cemetery, Beaumont, Texas
Signed to Columbia Records in 1927, Willie Johnson’s talent was sliding on the guitar, which earned him international recognition. Considered to be one of the fathers of blues, his hit song, “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” has been covered by Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Clapton, outselling many of the period’s most famous musicians.
Pvt. Harry H. Choates - The Godfather of Cajun Music
Birth: December 26, 1922, Vermilion Parish, Louisiana
Death: July 17, 195, Austin, Texas
Burial: Calvary Cemetery Port Arthur, Texas
Known as “Parain de la Musique Cajun” or “The Godfather of Cajun Music,” his hit “Jole Blonde” really put Cajun music on the map. Although he died at the young age of 28, he is credited for essentially creating the Cajun national anthem.
Clarance “Gatemouth” Brown - Grammy Award Winner
Birth: April 18, 1924, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana
Death: September 10, 2005, Orange, Texas
Burial: Hollywood Cemetery, Orange, Texas
Gatemouth Brown, a blues musician, was best known for his guitar and violin playing. His hit songs “Okie Dokie Stomp” and "Boogie Uproar” still echo in line dance halls today. He earned a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues for his album “Alright Again” and received the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Heroes Award before being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Tex Ritter - America’s Most Beloved Cowboy
Birth: January 12, 1905, Panola County, Texas
Death: January 2, 1974, Nashville, Tennessee
Burial: Oak Bluff Memorial Park Port Neches, Texas
Tip your hat to Tex, a country music singer and actor. A major star in the 1930s and 1940s, he worked on set as a cowboy in over 75 Western films and performer at the Grand Ole Opry. The father of John Ritter, his legacy lives on as the founder of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville and is also in the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Warren Wells - NFL Wide Receiver
Birth: November 14, 1942, Beaumont, Texas
Death: December 27, 2018, Beaumont, Texa
Burial: Forest Lawn Memorial Park Beaumont, Texas
AFL Allstar, Warren Wells is considered one of the best to ever play in the league. A wide receiver for the Lions and the Raiders, led the team to the Championship Title, earning a bid to the Pro Bowl after his 1,000-yard season. His 26.8 yards per reception in 1969 still stands as the fifth-highest record of all time.
Matchett Herring Coe - Famous Sculptor
Birth: July 22, 1907, Hardin County, Texas
Death: January 14, 1999, Beaumont Texas
Burial: Magnolia Cemetery Beaumont, Texas
Once a Who’s Who in America, Matchett Coe was a sculptor who studied at South Park College (now Lamar University). His works in chiseled stone and cast bronze dotted the landscape of Southeast Texas, decorating the area with embellished bas reliefs and elegant friezes. Today, his works can be seen at Rice University, Houston City Hall, and libraries and educational institutions across America.