The Immortal Ten

On January 22, 1927, tragedy struck Baylor University when a collision near Round Rock, Texas, ended the lives on ten students en route to an athletic event.

Aboard the bus that day were twenty-two young men from Baylor University bound for a basketball game against the University of Texas. In addition to players, the vehicle carried managers, yell leaders, and fans. Heavy rain made the lengthy ride to Austin treacherous. Driver Joe Potter had a difficult time navigating the unfamiliar road due to poor visibility and slick road surfaces.

After three and a half hours of driving, the bus reached the railroad crossing in Round Rock. Fast approaching from the west was the Sunshine Special, a northbound passenger train. The Sunshine Special was behind schedule, so its engineer urged it ahead at a speed of sixty miles per hour. As the train neared the crossing the engineer fired its whistle, but no one on the bus heard the screech. By the time Potter saw the train, it was too late to stop on the slick street. He pressed the accelerator and tried to push the bus past the tracks ahead of the train. When the bus failed to get up to speed in time, Potter swerved in a desperate attempt to avoid collision. Several students jumped or were thrown out of the bus as it lurched over the tracks. Tragically, only half of the bus managed to clear the tracks before the train caught the vehicle’s rear end.

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, local residents and medical personnel worked hard to treat the injured and identify the dead. Sadly, ten young men did not survive the collision: Jack Castellaw, Sam Dillow, Merle Dudley, Ivey Foster, Robert Hannah, Robert Hailey, Clyde (Abe) Kelley, Willis Murray, James L. Walker, and William Winchester.

Baylor University and the greater community of Waco deeply felt the loss of the ten. Baylor hosted a memorial service that drew over three thousand people. A mayoral proclamation saw local businesses closed, and the city’s telephone system shut down for the hour of the service.

Though individual memorials exist for each member of the deceased, the group lives on in popular memory as the Immortal Ten, a title coined by Waco Times-Herald reporter Jack Hawkins. In the January 23, 1927 issue of the paper, Hawkins wrote, “Though Death’s icy fingers have written ‘Finis’ across the life of each of the immortal ten who are today mourned, their memory will never perish.”

The legacy of the Immortal Ten is far-reaching. The terrible accident prompted politicians to re-examine railway safety in the state. Eight years after the accident, Texas’ first railroad overpass was built over the tracks in Round Rock. The memory of the Immortal Ten also serves as the foundation for one of Baylor’s most important homecoming traditions. Each year, the story of the Immortal Ten is told anew to freshmen and a candlelight remembrance ceremony is held. Freshmen are encouraged to band together and embrace the spirit of togetherness that helped heal the campus in the wake of tragedy.

After ten years of planning and fundraising, a permanent memorial to the Immortal Ten was installed in Traditions Square on Baylor campus. It features a ten-by-eight-foot bas-relief panel representing six of the fallen ten athletes. Four free-standing life-sized bronze statues of the remaining athletes compliment the panel. Bruce Greene, renowned western sculptor, crafted the monument. 

Images

Full of Potential

Full of Potential

In the preseason, Baylor had been favored to win the Southwest Conference due to the fact they had all five starters returning. Unfortunately, the season was off to a rough start with three home losses. Team members viewed the coming game against the University of Texas as their chance to turn the season around. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

A Horrific Scene

A Horrific Scene

Given the terrible nature of the accident, it is not surprising that news outlets sought to make sense of the tragedy through sketches and eyewitness testimonies. This image represents artist Roy L. Pope's efforts to outline the immediate aftermath of the wreck. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Jack Castellaw

Jack Castellaw

A senior, Jack served as the team's official scorekeeper. Baylor University's Castellaw Communications Building is named in his honor. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Sam Dillow

Sam Dillow

A native of Fort Worth, Sam was a junior and the team's starting guard. He was an excellent student and an active member of the Baylor University Chamber of Commerce. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Merle Dudley

Merle Dudley

Originally from Abilene, Merle was one of the yell leaders accompanying the team. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Ivey Foster Jr.

Ivey Foster Jr.

A freshman, Ivey played football and basketball at Baylor. The bus picked Ivey up at Temple as he decided to hitchhike down to Austin for the game. The vehicle was so crowded Ivey had to travel the first few miles standing on the running board. Taking pity on the freshman, equipment manager Ed Gooch offered Ivey his seat inside. This gesture of kindness would ultimately save Gooch's life but cost Ivey his own. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Robert Hailey

Robert Hailey

Robert, a sophomore guard, was to be initiated into the Baylor University Chamber of Commerce the week after the accident occurred. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Robert Hannah

Robert Hannah

A native Wacoan, Robert was a junior and a starting guard on the basketball team. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

James Clyde "Abe" Kelley

James Clyde "Abe" Kelley

A junior, James served as a substitute forward for the basketball team. Just before the train crashed into the bus. Weir Washam jumped out of the window. A few of the other survivors, including John Kane, claimed that Abe Kelley actually gave Washam the push he needed to make it out in time. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Willis Murray

Willis Murray

Willis, an eighteen-year-old native of Gatesville, was the team's manager and substitute forward. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

James Walker

James Walker

From Gatesville, James was a junior and a forward on the basketball team. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

William Winchester

William Winchester

William, a senior, served as the team's substitute center and guard. He also was a proud member of the Boy Scouts. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Megan Danner, “The Immortal Ten,” Waco History, accessed June 22, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/103.

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