Filled Under: Gene Autry
Gene Autry was born Orvon Grover Autry on September 29, 1907 in Tioga, Texas. Autry was an American composer, songwriter, actor, author, and businessman. He gained fame as The Singing Cowboy on the radio, in movies and on television for more than three decades beginning in the 1930s. Autry was also owner of the Los Angeles/California Angels Major League Baseball team from 1961 to 1997, a television station, and several radio stations in Southern California. Although his signature song was “Back in the Saddle Again,” Autry is best known today for his Christmas holiday songs, “Here Comes Santa Claus” (which he wrote), “Frosty the Snowman,” and his biggest hit, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” He joined ASCAP in 1939 and he is a member of both the Country Music and Nashville Songwriters halls of fame, and is the only person to be awarded stars in all five categories (Film, Television, Music, Radio, and Live Performance) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Most recently, he became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. He won the National Parents-Teachers Film Award for the films and television programs he produced.
In World War II Autry served as a C-47 Skytrain pilot in the United States Army Air Forces, with the rank of flight officer in the Air Transport Command flying dangerous missions over the Himalayas, nicknamed the Hump, between Burma and China.
Autry retired from show business in 1964, having made almost 100 films up to 1955 and over 600 records. After retiring, he invested widely and in real estate, radio, and television, including the purchase from dying Republic Pictures the rights for films he had made for the company. Included for many years on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans, he slipped to their “near miss” category in 1995 with an estimated net worth of $320 million.
In 1932 he married Ina May Spivey (who died in 1980), who was the niece of Jimmy Long. In 1981 he married Jacqueline Ellam, who had been his banker. He had no children by either marriage.
Gene Autry died of lymphoma three days after his 91st birthday at his home in Studio City, California. He is interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.