Remembering the Immortal Ten
January 22 will forever be a day when the Baylor family stops to reflect, for it was on this day in 1927 that we lost 10 of our own — the students we remember as the Immortal Ten.
Every Bear knows the basics of the story: Coach Ralph Wolf was taking his very first Baylor basketball team to play in Austin vs. Texas. The game was crucial for the Bears, who were in the race for the 1927 Southwest Conference championship. Rain had been pouring all day, hindering the bus driver’s vision — and as the bus was passing over train tracks in Round Rock, so was a train. It crashed into the side of the bus, killing 10 of the 21 student-athletes, coaches and fans on the bus.
But the young men who died weren’t just a group; they were individuals, each with his own story. Who were the Immortal Ten?
* Jack Castellaw, a senior from Ennis, was the team’s official scorekeeper. He loved traveling with the basketball team and naturally wouldn’t miss this important game. Baylor’s Castellaw Communications Center is named for him; his friend Dave Cheavens, BA ’33, a Lariat editor who was also on the bus that day, dedicated the final years of his life to raising money for the building.
* Sam Dillow, a junior from Fort Worth, was a Baylor Chamberman as well as a starting guard who had captained the team the year before. Sam’s parents, who had attended Baylor as well, were planning to celebrate his 22nd birthday with him a week later in Fort Worth when the team played TCU.
* Merle Dudley, a second-year law student from Abilene and the only yell leader who planned to attend that game. Merle lived with five of of those on the bus, including three of those who perished (Castellaw, Dillow, and Hannah).
* L.R. “Ivey” Foster, Jr., a freshman from Taylor who had been named sports editor for the Lariat just a week earlier. Ivey had been hitchhiking to Austin through the freezing January rain when the bus driver saw him and picked him up. The Lariat’s coverage of the crash had to include the death of their own reporter.
* Robert “Bob” Hailey, a sophomore from Lott and substitute guard. The first in his family to attend college, Bob was known as “Smilin’ Bob” due to his ever-present grin. He had just joined Baylor Chamber, and was to have been initiated the next week.
* Robert “Bob” L. Hannah, Jr., a junior from Waco and starting guard. His parents had relocated to St. Louis for his father’s engineering job. His best friend? William Winchester.
* James Clyde “Abe” Kelly, a substitute forward on the basketball team and captain-elect of the football team. He was studying business administration and was working at a local fire department to pay for housing. Kelly had seen the train coming just before impact and, rather than save himself, pushed his childhood friend and roommate, Weir Washman, out the window. Abe left behind his parents, nine siblings, and longtime girlfriend Dorris Roberts.
* Willis Murray, a junior from Gatesville, substitute guard and team manager. Though he served as manager most of the time, he was happy to be part of the team. Much of his interest in basketball came from his friendship with teammate Jim Walker, a high school classmate. Willis had come to Baylor at age 16 and was earning both a bachelor of arts and a law degree. He left behind his parents, five siblings, a girlfriend, and his childhood pony, Snip.
* James “Jim” Walker, a junior from Gatesville and a forward on the team. He had come from a large, humble family, and his basketball, football and track skills gave him the opportunity to study business administration. Unlike his outgoing, prank-playing teammates, Jim was often the quiet one of the group.
* William Winchester, a senior from Waco and substitute center and guard. William was majoring in history and French, was in the top 10% of his class, and was a leader in the local Boy Scout order. He left behind at Baylor his twin brother, Robert, and their younger brother, Albert.
As we remember the Immortal Ten, we should remember that they were real people — young men with families, friends, girlfriends, professors, coaches, bosses — just like us. They worked to earn good grades, were involved in campus activities, and rooted for our school’s teams. They were Baylor Bears. They are the we of us.
Sic ’em forever, Immortal Ten.
[Want to learn more about each of these young men? Check out this definitive book from Baylor Press.]