Schramm, Texas Earnest, Jr. (“Tex”)

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Schramm, Texas Earnest, Jr. (“Tex”)

(b. 2 June 1920 in San Gabriel, California; d. 15 July 2003 in Dallas, Texas), football general manager largely responsible for building the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL) and for advancing the NFL overall.

Schramm seemed to fit the stereotypical mold of the larger-than-life Texan, but he was born and reared in California. Schramm’s and his father’s given name acknowledged the family’s roots in the heavily German community of New Braunfels, Texas. The family later moved to nearby San Antonio, Texas. Schramm’s parents, Texas E. Schramm, Sr., and Elsa Julia (Steinwender) Schramm, married and moved to California. Although his brokerage business was in Los Angeles, Schramm, Sr., settled the family in San Gabriel, thirty-five miles away among acres and acres of orange groves. Elisa was a homemaker.

Schramm, sometime called Tex by family members, was a bright child but had an undiagnosed learning disability, probably attention deficit disorder coupled with hyperactivity. After Schramm failed and repeated first, second, and third grades, his parents enrolled him at a military school for a short time. He was eventually assimilated into classes at Alhambra High School and graduated. Although far from an honors student, Schramm was a leader outside the classroom, notably as the sports editor of the Moor, the high school newspaper. A schoolmate remembered Schramm as “friendly, but one who was figuring all the angles.” Schramm did not outgrow either trait.

After a stint at Pasadena Junior College, Schramm in 1939 enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, his father’s alma mater. Schramm became the sports editor of the Daily Texan, the college newspaper. When World War II broke out, Schramm enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Early in his military service, on 15 April 1942, Schramm married Martha Anne (“Marty”) Snow-den. The couple eventually had three daughters. Schramm, a captain, was stationed in Hawaii with a unit that flew personnel and supplies to troops throughout the Pacific Theater. After the war Schramm returned to Austin with his wife and daughter. In the fall semester of 1945 Schramm became a full-time student at the University of Texas and a full-time reporter for the Austin American Statesman. He graduated in 1947 with a BA in journalism. Although he never met him during this period, Schramm was at the University of Texas at the same time as Tom Landry, whose career became intertwined with Schramm’s.

With NFL football new to the West Coast in 1947, Schramm was hired as the publicity director of the Los Angeles Rams at a salary of $8,000 a year. When he advanced to general manager in 1952, Schramm hired the young Pete Rozelle, later the commissioner of football, fresh out of the University of San Francisco to take over publicity. Schramm left the Rams in 1957 for an executive post with CBS Sports in New York City.

In 1959 Schramm heard rumors that Dallas would be awarded an NFL franchise for the 1960 season. On the recommendation of George Halas, the owner of the Chicago Bears, Clint Murchison, Jr., the owner of the new team, hired Schramm as the general manager of the team, which was named the Cowboys. Schramm quickly hired Landry as head coach. Landry had made a name for himself as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. Over a span of three decades the triumvirate brought unparalleled success to the Cowboys.

The Cowboys, however, were not an immediate success. The public demanded that Landry be fired when his first five seasons produced a record of 18–45–5. To silence the critics, Schramm signed Landry to an unprecedented ten-year contract. It soon paid dividends. In 1966 the Cowboys had a 10–3 record, the first of twenty consecutive winning seasons, an NFL record. At the beginning of the streak, the Cowboys could not seem to win a championship and were dubbed “next year’s champions.” Through shrewd and detailed promotion, marketing, and public relations, the Cowboys became known as “America’s team,” a name given to them by NFL Films, not, as many believe, by the organization itself. The Cowboys attracted a worldwide following, helped by seemingly weekly appearances as the second game of the Sunday NFL doubleheaders televised on CBS, Schramm’s previous employer.

In 1960 Schramm was instrumental in promoting his former replacement Rozelle as NFL commissioner. The two had such a close relationship and Schramm’s influence was so great that some called Schramm “vice commissioner.” Others thought Schramm had even more power than Rozelle. While Schramm was busy enhancing the Cowboys, what many of his critics overlooked was how he was making the entire NFL a more interesting and fan-friendly operation.

Schramm was an innovator who introduced computerized scouting and player evaluations. He also instituted the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Schramm saw the Dallas Cowboys Weekly become the nation’s third-best-selling sports publication, behind only Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News in circulation.

During the Schramm-Landry era the Dallas Cowboys record was 270–178–6. The team appeared in eighteen playoff games and five Super Bowl games, winning two. Schramm was instrumental in the 1966 merger between the NFL and the American Football League. Things changed in Dallas in 1989 when the Arkansas oil wildcatter Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys and fired Landry, the only coach the Cowboys had known. Schramm was subsequently paid little attention and resigned several months after the purchase.

Schramm was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. After a long period of ill health, he died on 15 July 2003 at his home in Dallas. On 12 October 2003 he was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor, which had been one of Schramm’s innovations. Schramm’s funeral was private, but a well-attended memorial service was held at the Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas. Schramm is buried in Restland Memorial Park, Dallas. Schramm had a lasting impact on professional football. The NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, “Tex Schramm was one of the visionary leaders in sports history—a thinker, a doer, an innovator, and a winner with few equals. He played a major role in building the NFL.”

A biography of Schramm is Bob St. John, Tex! The Man Who Built the Dallas Cowboys (1988). For information about Schramm’s career with the Cowboys, see Donald Chipman, Randolph Campbell, and Robert Calvert, The Dallas Cowboysand the NFL (1970); and Jeff Meyers, Dallas Cowboys (1974). An obituary is in the New York Times (16 July 2003).

Jim Campbell

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