The George Kirksey Papers contain clippings, manuscripts, some correspondence, scrapbooks, and numerous photographs. Materials are dated between 1910 and 1971. The collection comprises 18 manuscript boxes and has 3,363 items.
The collection is divided into several series, based on a particular function of Kirksey's life or by form (photographs, scrapbooks, and miscellaneous items). The collection arrived at the University of Houston Special Collections unorganized for the most part. The collection had been created by friends of Kirksey's who cleaned out his apartment following his death and boxed up materials they deemed of possible value, which they sent to the University of Houston Libraries.
The series are primarily arranged by the work in which Kirksey was involved. The series include: Personal, Writing, Military, Public Relations, KTRK, Civil War Round Table, Houston Sports Association, Travel, Photographs, Scrapbooks, and Miscellaneous. Within each series, the materials are organized alphabetically and chronologically where applicable. Apart from the numerous clippings, most of the collection relates to his work as a United Press International correspondent, his service in the Air Force during World War II, and his work with the Houston Sports Association.
A large part of the collection is comprised of newspaper clippings and pages removed from various magazines. Kirksey was a voracious reader and during his life he collected numerous magazine clippings and pages on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately, Kirksey did not label his clippings for date or publication. Many of the clippings have been replaced by photocopies because of the deterioration of the original clippings. The clippings, tear sheets, and photocopies have been arranged within each topical series based on the subject of the clipping.
Kirksey also collected maps and brochures from different places he visited. These items have been retained for the most part, although a large set of National Geographic maps from the late 1950s and early 1960s have been removed from the collection. Again, these items have been placed within the appropriate series where applicable.
There are almost 700 photographs in the collection. Many of the photographs focus on Kirksey's service in the Air Force during World War II, the Astrodome, and the Colt .45s/Astros. A few of the photographs, related to baseball, have captions created for the press. Unfortunately, Kirksey did not label any of the photographs he kept, making identification of personal photographs and travel photographs nearly impossible. The photographs have been organized by topic, which corresponds to the other series. Some photographs are duplicated in the scrapbooks and may have a year or place assigned to them.
Open for research.
Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian. Reproduction decisions will be made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis.
7.50 Linear Feet
George Kirksey, sportswriter, traveler, and baseball promoter, was born in Hillsboro, Texas on February 22, 1904. Following his graduation from high school in Hillsboro in 1923, he attended the University of Texas at Austin for two and a half years, where he studied journalism and worked part-time for local newspapers.
Kirksey became a sportswriter for United Press in 1927. During the 1930s he became a well-known figure in sports journalism, publishing hundreds of articles. In 1933 he was sent by UP to China, India, Egypt, and Italy to write a number of travel stories. He married Ethel Shutta, singer and actress, in 1940.
During World War II, Kirksey joined the Air Force as a public relations officer with the rank of First Lieutenant with the Ninth Army Air Force Division. By the end of the war, Kirksey had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, received several commendations for his work, and had been in Egypt, Libya, England, France, and Germany.
Following his return from service, Kirksey and his wife moved to Houston. Kirksey opened a public relations firm and became involved in several local enterprises. He founded the Houston Civil War Round Table during the mid-1950s.
Kirksey's primary activity involved bringing major league baseball to Houston. In the late 1940s Kirksey began this work, which would include several different attempts to force the major leagues into allowing Houston to have a team. Kirksey was a supporter of the Continental League, which would have been a direct competitor with the American and National Leagues, and led a group of prominent Houstonians in their futile attempt to purchase the St. Louis Cardinals in 1952.
In 1957 he joined with several other men including R. E. "Bob" Smith, Roy Hofheinz, and Paul Richards to form the Houston Sports Association. This group would eventually become the owners of the Colt .45s (later known as the Houston Astros), following the expansion of the National League into Houston in 1962.
Kirksey held the position of Executive Vice-President within the Houston Sports Association until 1966. During this time, he was instrumental in the promotion of the team and the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the Astrodome. Kirksey was also involved in the various controversies surrounding the Astrodome and its baseball team. In 1965 Kirksey realized that he was being pushed from the Houston Sports Association, as Roy Hofheinz moved to take control of the organization.
On July 21, 1961 he married Billie Joyce Smith. He and Ethel Shutta Kirksey had divorced in 1957. Kirksey had no children of his own but had two step-sons from his marriage with Ethel Shutta. Kirksey and Billie Joyce (Smith) Kirksey were divorced on November 13, 1964.
After Kirksey's contract with the Houston Sports Association was denied renewal, he sold his share of the Astros to Roy Hofheinz in 1965, who later became sole owner of the team. Kirksey toyed with creating a new football team in Houston to challenge Bud Adams' Oilers, but quickly lost interest.
Kirksey became fairly wealthy from the sale of his share of the Astros, as well as the sale of his stock in KTRK, the first commercial television station in Houston. With this new-found wealth, Kirksey began traveling, primarily in Europe and the Caribbean. During this time he wrote a series of travel articles that were published in the Houston Post, and he became involved in auto racing. Kirksey spent most of his last years traveling in Western Europe. Kirksey died in France in 1971 in an automobile accident.
Donated by Mr. Kirksey's estate.
The Astrodome, Eighth Wonder of the World digital collection
Andrea Bean Hough, 1994-1995
Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository