Update on W.T. Betts (from a reader)

Betts (circa 1914) in front of the Residence Hall

One of the most enjoyable things about this blog is that it’s given me the opportunity to meet other people who are interested in Rice history. After my post a week ago where I was kind of inappropriately swooning over a member of the 1912 football team, I got an email from a reader who picked up where I had left off. This makes me nearly giddy with delight.

“Your crush on W.T. Betts got me curious, so I looked up some more info on him, via Google.  Perhaps you’ve found this same info … which does not contradict, but rather amplifies, your post:

His full name is Wilson Tarry Betts, and he earned his bachelors degree from Southwestern University (Sources: his obituary and this webpage on WWII veterans.)

“Prior to 1920, high school athletic teams, especially football, were given names prompted by an incident of play or characteristics of players. When Wilson T. Betts was coach and teams were quite successful, they were referred to as ‘Betts’ Bad, Barking, Biting Bulldogs’.”  (Source) Marlin High School soon thereafter named their athletic teams “Bulldogs.”

A number of Marlin High School yearbooks are online.  Here’s a link to the 1931 edition.

More info on his stint as band director and his early roles with the Texas Music Educators Association.

Goofing around in the dorm (circa 1913). That’s Betts at back right with an enormous piece of some kind of food. The guy with the pitcher is Carl Knapp, who I posted about earlier.

In addition to his band duties he was also the Marlin High School football coach … and in 1921 lost to Temple, coached by his brother Floyd, 96-0!  (An obit for Floyd, and cemetery listing;  Obituary for their father, Isaac Franklin Betts. BTW, in the “Bulldogs” article (cited above), Floyd also said that he got a hit off NYGiants’s Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson during an exhibition game when the Giants trained in Marlin.)

Wilson was master of ceremonies at his high school class’s 50th anniversary reunion in 1962.

Also, this text-only webpage indicates that the 1982 publication “A History of Rice University –The Institute Years, 1907- 1963” contains a photo of the 1912 Rice football team (on page 54 or 55), that seems to be different, since Betts is listed as being on the right end of the middle row, not in front. [Interesting. I just looked this up in my copy of Meiners’s excellent book. It’s a different image of the 1912 team and I’m not sure where it came from. I don’t think I’ve seen it before, although it might be in the first Campanile and I just don’t remember it. Believe it or not, I forget things sometimes.]

I hope this info helps deepen your crush and appreciation for Mr. Betts.  🙂

Best wishes,– Mike Ross (Baker ’70/’74)”

This is some nice research and I almost certainly would never have had the time to do it myself. Thanks to Mr. Ross there will now be a file on Wilson T. Betts in the Woodson Research Center. I’d like to thank him for his efforts and for his kindness in sending this to me.  And after reading these links I certainly do have a deeper appreciation of Betts, who was not just a pretty face. He seems to have been a truly fine man and teacher of whom Rice can justly be proud.

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8 Responses to Update on W.T. Betts (from a reader)

  1. Pingback: Rice’s First Football Hero | Rice History Corner

  2. C Kelly says:

    The link to Marlin’s baseball history is fantastic. Part of my mother’s family lived/lives in Falls County. When I learned the Giants trained in Marlin, I wanted to know more. This info is just what I wanted.

  3. Kathryn Betts Miller Anderson says:

    Please note that his name is spelled Wilson TARRY Betts. Tarry was a family name on his mother’s side – Mamie Tarry. Signed, Kathryn Betts Miller Anderson, his great niece.

  4. Melissa Kean says:

    Thanks! I’ll fix it where I can. It seems to be a typo in the yearbook.

    Melissa

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  6. Stuart Evans says:

    Lynn Ashby from The Houston Post wrote an article about Wilson T. Betts as the last survivor of the 1912 Rice Football Team. The article was written in the mid-1980s? Wilson T. Betts was my great uncle.

    • Stuart Evans says:

      I must also add, that as Uncle Wilson tells the story, he played QB on the 1912 team. He says he scored the first touchdown in Rice history and kicked the extra point to beat Houston High School 7-6. He said he was hurt in the Texas game in 1914, ending his football career. He also said the President gave him funds to start the Marching Owl Band in 1914.

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