AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly 100 years ago, Texas politicians began their quest for finding the best song to serve as the official song of Texas. Over the period of five years, two separate competitions and hundreds of entries, the Texas Legislature officially adopted “Texas, Our Texas” as the state song in 1929.
William J. Marsh wrote the music and Gladys Yoakum Wright wrote the lyrics to “Texas, Our Texas” in the early 1920s.
In 1924, Texas Gov. Pat Neff launched a yearlong contest to find and select the official state anthem. “Texas, Our Texas” was selected as the winner, but the contest stalled out and didn’t progress, said Susan Floyd, communications officer at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
“It kind of languished for a while,” Floyd said, adding it wasn’t until a second contest in 1927 that the state song regained momentum.
The competition heats up in Texas
That second contest saw more than 700 entries, narrowed down to 37 finalists.
Some runner-ups throughout the two competitions held included “Texas, the Bountiful” but Ann Thompson; “Shine on Forever” by Judge Rudolph Kleberg; and “All Hail to Texas” by Randolph Haynes.
A final judging round of the 37 remaining options was held in October 1927, with the lyrics to “Texas, Our Texas” published in the Austin-American Statesman on Oct. 23, 1927.
In 1929, Gov. Dan Moody propelled “Texas, Our Texas” forward, and the song was adopted as the official state anthem in the 41st Texas Legislature in 1929.
Who created the song?
Marsh originally hailed from Liverpool before moving to Fort Worth in 1905, where he worked in the cotton business before fully immersing himself in the music world as a musician, composer, teacher and local music critic for magazines and newspapers.
Less is known on Wright, a woman born in Greenville, Texas to a wholesale grocer. The few interviews and quotes attributed to her find her praising the creation of the song and her collaboration with Marsh on the final version.
I wrote “Texas, Our Texas” and took it to Mr. Marsh. I had never met him, but I knew he wrote wonderful music. At that time, he was working on a patriotic melody, but had not decided just what it should be. Together, we improved upon my original “Texas, Our Texas” and, well, you know the rest.Gladys Yoakum Wright, 1930 article, on creation of “Texas, Our Texas”
Years later, Wright and her son relocated to St. Louis, but her love for Texas endured. According to historic archives, she was quoted as having said: “My heart is in Texas, and Texas will always be my real home.”
The evolution of the song
Since its initial adoption, lyrics to the song have only been tweaked once. The changes came in 1959, following the adoption of Alaska as a U.S. state.
“We know that Marsh himself changed the lyrics,” Floyd said. “He chose to change the word from ‘largest,’ which is what it was originally, to ‘boldest,’ which is what we see now in the current lyrics.”
Leading up to the Texas centennial in 1936, Floyd said there was a substantial surge in the song’s popularity. Floyd said this spike in interest was likely attributed to Texas’ 100th anniversary, coupled with the strong identity of Texas as a state.
“Texas is famous for probably having the strongest identity out of all of the states — other states might argue with us, but we’re definitely in the top,” she said. “We talk about our state a lot, we think about it a lot.”