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George Kirksey, sportswriter, traveler, and baseball promoter, was born in Hillsboro, Texas on February 22, 1904. Following his graduation from high school in Hillsboro in 1923, he attended the University of Texas at Austin for two and a half years, where he studied journalism and worked part-time for local newspapers.
Kirksey became a sportswriter for United Press in 1927. During the 1930s he became a well-known figure in sports journalism, publishing hundreds of articles. In 1933 he was sent by UP to China, India, Egypt, and Italy to write a number of travel stories. He married Ethel Shutta, singer and actress, in 1940.
During World War II, Kirksey joined the Air Force as a public relations officer with the rank of First Lieutenant with the Ninth Army Air Force Division. By the end of the war, Kirksey had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, received several commendations for his work, and had been in Egypt, Libya, England, France, and Germany.
Following his return from service, Kirksey and his wife moved to Houston. Kirksey opened a public relations firm and became involved in several local enterprises. He founded the Houston Civil War Round Table during the mid-1950s.
Kirksey's primary activity involved bringing major league baseball to Houston. In the late 1940s Kirksey began this work, which would include several different attempts to force the major leagues into allowing Houston to have a team. Kirksey was a supporter of the Continental League, which would have been a direct competitor with the American and National Leagues, and led a group of prominent Houstonians in their futile attempt to purchase the St. Louis Cardinals in 1952.
In 1957 he joined with several other men including R. E. "Bob" Smith, Roy Hofheinz, and Paul Richards to form the Houston Sports Association. This group would eventually become the owners of the Colt .45s (later known as the Houston Astros), following the expansion of the National League into Houston in 1962.
Kirksey held the position of Executive Vice-President within the Houston Sports Association until 1966. During this time, he was instrumental in the promotion of the team and the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the Astrodome. Kirksey was also involved in the various controversies surrounding the Astrodome and its baseball team. In 1965 Kirksey realized that he was being pushed from the Houston Sports Association, as Roy Hofheinz moved to take control of the organization.
On July 21, 1961 he married Billie Joyce Smith. He and Ethel Shutta Kirksey had divorced in 1957. Kirksey had no children of his own but had two step-sons from his marriage with Ethel Shutta. Kirksey and Billie Joyce (Smith) Kirksey were divorced on November 13, 1964.
After Kirksey's contract with the Houston Sports Association was denied renewal, he sold his share of the Astros to Roy Hofheinz in 1965, who later became sole owner of the team. Kirksey toyed with creating a new football team in Houston to challenge Bud Adams' Oilers, but quickly lost interest.
Kirksey became fairly wealthy from the sale of his share of the Astros, as well as the sale of his stock in KTRK, the first commercial television station in Houston. With this new-found wealth, Kirksey began traveling, primarily in Europe and the Caribbean. During this time he wrote a series of travel articles that were published in the Houston Post, and he became involved in auto racing. Kirksey spent most of his last years traveling in Western Europe. Kirksey died in France in 1971 in an automobile accident.
This Collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Donated by Mr. Kirksey's estate
Andrea Bean Hough, 1994-1995
Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, locating copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian.
Open for research.
George Kirksey Papers, Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
The George Kirksey Papers contain clippings, manuscripts, some correspondence, scrapbooks, and numerous photographs. Materials are dated between 1910 and 1971. The collection comprises 18 manuscript boxes and has 3,363 items.
The collection is divided into several series, based on a particular function of Kirksey's life or by form (photographs, scrapbooks, and miscellaneous items). The collection arrived at the University of Houston Special Collections unorganized for the most part. The collection had been created by friends of Kirksey's who cleaned out his apartment following his death and boxed up materials they deemed of possible value, which they sent to the University of Houston Libraries.
The series are primarily arranged by the work in which Kirksey was involved. The series include: Personal, Writing, Military, Public Relations, KTRK, Civil War Round Table, Houston Sports Association, Travel, Photographs, Scrapbooks, and Miscellaneous. Within each series, the materials are organized alphabetically and chronologically where applicable. Apart from the numerous clippings, most of the collection relates to his work as a United Press International correspondent, his service in the Air Force during World War II, and his work with the Houston Sports Association.
A large part of the collection is comprised of newspaper clippings and pages removed from various magazines. Kirksey was a voracious reader and during his life he collected numerous magazine clippings and pages on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately, Kirksey did not label his clippings for date or publication. Many of the clippings have been replaced by photocopies because of the deterioration of the original clippings. The clippings, tear sheets, and photocopies have been arranged within each topical series based on the subject of the clipping.
Kirksey also collected maps and brochures from different places he visited. These items have been retained for the most part, although a large set of National Geographic maps from the late 1950s and early 1960s have been removed from the collection. Again, these items have been placed within the appropriate series where applicable.
There are almost 700 photographs in the collection. Many of the photographs focus on Kirksey's service in the Air Force during World War II, the Astrodome, and the Colt .45s/Astros. A few of the photographs, related to baseball, have captions created for the press. Unfortunately, Kirksey did not label any of the photographs he kept, making identification of personal photographs and travel photographs nearly impossible. The photographs have been organized by topic, which corresponds to the other series. Some photographs are duplicated in the scrapbooks and may have a year or place assigned to them.
This series includes personal items such as Kirksey's social security card, marriage license to Ethel Shutta, and the newspaper notice of his divorce from Billie Joyce (Smith) Kirksey. There are 959 items in the series. Much of the series consists of items related to his interests in the Civil War and the Houston Civil War Round Table, military interests, baseball (not related to the Houston Sports Association), golf, and improving his writing. This series includes materials on Kirksey's brief venture into auto racing. For photographs related to Kirksey's personal life, see the Photographs series under the heading "Personal."
Materials in this series include manuscripts, clippings, and notes for stories by Kirksey. There are 260 items in the series. The types of writing include sports stories, travel accounts, short stories, notes, and other materials. The material divides roughly into sports articles written by Kirksey in the 1930s and travel stories from Kirksey's travels in Europe in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
This series contains materials relating to Kirksey's service in the Air Force during World War II and Kirksey's activities in the Air Force Reserves. There are 445 items in the series. Most of the materials in the series are Kirksey's military records and official publications listing his commendations. In addition, there are several memos sent to and from Kirksey regarding his reinstatement in the Air Force Reserves to obtain service points. There is also a sub-series of items relating to Kirksey's military interests. Many of the records and memos exist in multiple copies. See the Photographs series under the heading "World War II" for photographs taken during Kirksey's service in the Ninth Air Force.
This is a very small series with 18 items, dated 1946 through 1947. Included are press releases promoting Kirksey's public relations firm and other related materials.
This series includes information related to the early history of KTRK, Channel 13. There are 69 items in the series. Materials include correspondence, audit reports, minutes from 1952-1953, clippings related to the sale of KTRK, and financial information both for the television company and for Kirksey's interest in the company.
This series includes newsletters, lectures, and other materials relating to the Houston Civil War Round Table, which was started by Kirksey. The series has 103 items, dating from 1954 to 1967. In addition, there is a box of uncataloged pamphlets regarding the Civil War included in the series. It has been given a separate box number which is indicated in the folder title listing.
This series includes materials on Kirksey's work to bring baseball to Houston as part of the Houston Sports Association. There are 659 items in the series. There are a variety of materials in the series, including reports, press kits, pamphlets, correspondence, clippings, and announcements. Included are materials about the Continental League, the Astrodome, Colt .45s/Astros, problems with baseball, leaving the HSA, selling his stock in the HSA, and the HSA's work in trying to bring in football to oppose Bud Adams' Oilers. Some of the people included in the series are R. E. "Bob" Smith, Paul Richards, and Roy Hofheinz. There is also a box of newspapers related to the Houston Sports Association, which has been given its own box number. Photographs related to the Colt .45s, the Astros, and the Astrodome are in the Photographs series under the heading "Baseball."
This series includes clippings and tear sheets of articles related to travel in different countries that Kirksey planned to visit. The series also includes a few clippings of articles written about Kirksey's travels, primarily in Europe during the late 1960s and early 1970s. There are 161 items in the series. The manuscripts for articles written by Kirksey are included in the Manuscripts series.
There are 670 photographs in this series. The photographs are arranged as follows: Personal, 163 photographs; World War II, 311 photographs; Baseball, 173 photographs; Travel, 23 photographs; and Miscellaneous, 15 photographs. Kirksey made no attempt to identify the people or places in the photographs he kept. The photographs have been sorted by subject where possible and have not been arranged in any particular order beyond this. There is no folder listing for the photographs. They have been arranged by box and are numbered only for security measures. The Personal photographs include family photographs, portrait photographs of Kirksey, photographs taken for his work with General Brereton, and other photographs of Kirksey that were not baseball- or war-related. Also included are photographs relating to Kirksey's auto racing team. Additional photographs of this nature may be found in the 1931-1938 scrapbook. The World War II photographs include shots taken during Kirksey's service in the Ninth Air Force. Photographs include shots of Kirksey and his comrades, abandoned military vehicles, destroyed bridges, paratroopers, gliders, Air Force bases, destroyed buildings, and other war-related photographs. The shots are not identified by place. Kirksey was in Egypt, England, France, and Germany during his service in the Air Force from 1942 to 1945. The Baseball sub-series contains photographs of the Houston Colt .45s (later the Houston Astros), the Astrodome and Houston Sports Association activities. Many photographs taken for the publicity of the Colt .45s and the Astrodome are included in this group. There are also photographs pre-dating Kirksey's involvement with the HSA, which include Kirksey with various baseball players. Additional photographs may be found in the 1951-1968 scrapbook. The Travel photographs were all taken during Kirksey's trip to India, China, and other eastern countries during 1933. Identified, larger copies of the photographs may be found in the 1931-1938 scrapbook. The Miscellaneous photographs include some photographs in which the subject could not be identified, as well as photographs that had been autographed and sent to Kirksey. Included among the Miscellaneous photographs are autographed pictures from various dignitaries and sports figures. Additional photographs related to Kirksey's travels in 1933, Ethel Shutta Kirksey, sports writing, and the Houston Sports Association may be found in the Scrapbooks.
There are nine scrapbooks in this series, dating from 1920 through 1968. Materials in the scrapbooks include newspaper clippings, tearsheets, invitations, identification cards, and photographs. Much of the material is neither dated nor identified. The first six scrapbooks cover Kirksey's life, primarily the 1920s through the 1960s. The remaining scrapbooks were compiled by Billie Joyce (Smith) Kirksey. The first scrapbook is in poor condition. Items include carbon copies of Kirksey's earliest sports articles, clippings of many of his articles from the 1920s and early 1930s, Christmas cards, tickets and badges from various sporting events, and photographs. Extreme caution must be used while working with this scrapbook. The second scrapbook includes clippings of stories written by Kirksey, photographs related to his travels in 1933 and his family, and letters received by Kirksey. There are also miscellaneous items. Items are dated 1931-1938. The third scrapbook covers Kirksey's military career during World War II and covers 1942 through 1945. Most of the items are newspaper clippings written by Kirksey or about Kirksey. Included are stories about his service and announcements of his awards. There are also numerous photographs taken during his time in service. Some of the photographs have captions included. The fourth scrapbook focuses on his work with the Houston Sports Association but includes materials on Kirksey's travels in Europe and on Kirksey's auto racing team which he started in 1966. The scrapbook includes clippings about the Colt .45s, articles written by Kirksey, photographs, press material, letters, and ephemeral items. Items are dated 1951-1968. The fifth scrapbook is titled, "Houston Professional Football, Inc." and includes clippings regarding Kirksey's work to bring professional football to Houston. All clippings are from 1959. Some items are loose. The sixth scrapbook is titled, "Anti-Baseball Book, 1965." In it are clippings detailing the perceived demise of baseball. There are also loose clippings that have been kept with the scrapbook. Clippings are dated 1964 through 1965. The three remaining scrapbooks were compiled by Kirksey's second wife, Billie Joyce (Smith) Kirksey. These include clippings related to Billie Joyce's activities at the University of Houston while she was a student. The first scrapbook includes the 1945-1946. The second scrapbook focuses on 1946-1947. The third focuses on 1947-1949. Items included are newspaper clippings, graduation announcements, wedding announcements, invitations, cards, and favors. These two scrapbooks are in poor condition.
This series includes items of an ephemeral nature, collected in one box for safekeeping. Items are not dated. There are 9 items in this series. Included are a handkerchief, a copper-colored piece of metal, two attaché cases, two wallet-sized photograph holders, and a binder. There is also a certificate that has been placed in the box because it is oversized, as well as an envelope containing coins from various European countries.