Tex Terry: The Bad Man of the Movies

BY: TED OSBORN

Frank McCarroll and Tex Terry force Gene Autry to confer with Charles Evans in "Twilight on the Rio Grande.”

Frank McCarroll and Tex Terry force Gene Autry to confer with Charles Evans in "Twilight on the Rio Grande.”

Edward Earl "Tex" Terry, the "bad man of the movies", was hit, knocked off cliffs and gunned down more times than he could remember. He was known in the b-western movies as a 'heavy'. "It was my big eyebrows. They made me a natural villain so I was always the bad guy." Tex once told an interviewer. Tex Terry was born on August 22, 1902, in Parke County Indiana, near the town of Coxville (once known as Roseville).

As a youngster, he learned to use a whip to drive mules in the coal mines in the nearby town of Rosedale. He used his whip skills many times in his career especially in his most famous role as Brizzard in the 1958 version of "The Oregon Trail", opposite Fred McMurray. Tex worked alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest names, including Audie Murphy, Alan Ladd, Sunset Carson, Barbara Stanwyck and his idol William S. Hart. His most frequent adversaries on screen were Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Although he was often uncredited in his films, Tex had a distinctive look and style that makes him easy to spot. He also appeared in many television westerns like "Wagon Train", "Death Valley Days", "The Lone Ranger", and "Gunsmoke". In 1964, Tex married his long-time friend and Hollywood agent, Isabel Draesemer, who managed the early careers of Buddy Ebsen, and Hugh O'Brian. Isabel is most noted for her discovery of Hollywood icon James Dean.

When Tex and Isabel left Hollywood, they returned to Indiana, initially settling in Mansfield, where Tex would attempt to fulfill a dream of turning the town into Frontier City. The Terry's purchased the Mansfield roller mill and several other buildings, but the dream was largely unrealized. In 1979, Tex and Isabel moved a short distance to Tex's hometown of Coxville Indiana and opened "Tex's Longhorn Tavern", which was and remains very successful. Here Tex would regale patrons with wonderful stories about his days in Hollywood. It was here, too, where everyone would understand just how genuinely nice the "bad man" was in real life.

Every August, on the occasion of his birthday, Tex and 'Izzy' would have a party and everyone in the area, both young and old, was invited to celebrate, listen to his Hollywood tales, and watch his old movies. Tex Terry was also a big hit at Indiana fairs and area schools where he loved to perform his whip and roping act on stage and talk about his glory days in films

On the afternoon of May 18, 1985, Tex died of a heart attack he suffered at home. Appropriately, the old cowboy was laid to rest up on the hill in the Coxville cemetery, very near the place where he'd been born 82 years before. Isabel Terry, his wife of 21 years, joined him there in April of 2002 - Story and All photos courtesy of Ted Osborn of Parke County, Indiana.

Tex demonstrates his whip skills on a brave volunteer named Mike Melnyk. This photo, circa 1973, is at Tex's house in Mansfield, In.

Tex demonstrates his whip skills on a brave volunteer named Mike Melnyk. This photo, circa 1973, is at Tex's house in Mansfield, In.