Tom Mix: First King of the Cowboys

Western movies were often seen on television in the afternoon when school kids arrived home. On our local television station KALB-TV the first show to come on in the afternoon was Howdy Doody followed by the Pinky Lee Show.

Then western movies which had been made in the 30’s and 40’s were telecast and we grew up watching western stars like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and many lesser known stars.

This is not a complete listing of those stars since there were too many western stars to include them all but this article will bring back memories of the ones we still remember 60 years later.

These movies led to 26 western television series being shown during prime time hours at the height of their popularity in 1959.

Tom Mix was an early pioneer in television westerns but only appeared in nine talkies since he appeared in his first movie short in 1909 in The Cowboy Millionaire. His last movie was released in 1935 which was 26years after his film debut.

Despite appearing mostly in silent films Mix earned $6 million during his movie career. If he had been born 10 to 20 years later he may have been one of the best known western actors and he appeared in 315 films during his career.

He reportedly was a pallbearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.

His own life ended tragically when he was reportedly driving 80 MPH in his 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton between Tucson and Phoenix in Florence, Arizona when he couldn’t brake in time to avoid construction barriers and rolled into a gully.

An aluminum suitcase filled with money, traveler’s checks and jewels slid off a shelf behind him and hit him in the back of his head killing him instantly.

Tom Mix may not be mentioned much today since he died 70 years ago but he was the first king of the cowboys.

Today’s article starts a series profiling western movie stars and will include singing cowboys like Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, Tex Ritter and Gene Autry plus will include articles on western stars of the past like William Boyd better known as Hopalong Cassidy, Johnny Mack Brown, Ken Maynard and Sunset Carson.