September 2004 Archives

Wild Bill McGaw

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My Father-in-law passed away early this morning. It fell to me to write his obituary, which follows.

William C. McGaw
William C. McGaw passed away on Friday, September 10, 2004, in Colorado Springs. Born on May 14, 1914, Bill lived the life most men only dream of. He was a newspaperman, publisher, boxing and show business promoter, restaurateur, historian, politician, race horse owner, actor, and all around character.

Bill began his career shortly after graduation from high school when he was hired as the editor of the Noblesville, Indiana newspaper. From there he went on to work as a reporter on such newspapers as the Tampa Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He was also a sports writer for the Philadelphia Record. In Philadelphia he “discovered” an up and coming young boxer whom he managed and proclaimed “the next middleweight champion of the world.” As it turned out, Sugar Ray Robinson made his prediction come true.

During the late 1930’s he worked for a short time as the announcer for Joie Chitwood’s Auto Daredevils, an automobile stunt show, replacing Jackie Gleason whose career was just beginning to blossom.

Bill served as the medical officer on a U. S. Merchant Marine vessel in World War II. After the war, he married Dorothy Oliver, a nurse, and returned to work on the Philadelphia Record. When the paper folded in 1948, Bill moved his family to California and took over ownership of the Tournament of Thrills, an automobile stunt show sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Bill and the Tournament of Thrills appeared in the 1950 movie, To Please a Lady, directed by Clarence Brown and starring Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, and Adolph Menjou. After making the movie, Bill traveled the country annually with the Tournament of Thrills until 1959.

In 1959, Bill moved to Columbus, NM and began his extensive study of the history of the Southwest and mountain men. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Pancho Villa State Park, in Columbus, and from 1961 until 1968 published The Southwesterner newspaper. He also produced and appeared in a TV show on Southwestern history, The Southwesterner, on two local TV stations, KTSM and KROD, in El Paso, Texas. In 1961 the show “drew more fan mail than any show, local or network, ever to be presented on (KTSM).”

After moving to Columbus, Bill began research on James Kirker, a mountain man and one of the first settlers of Silver City, N.M. He eventually published a biography of Kirker, Savage Scene, The Life and Times of James Kirker. His book, Southwest Saga, the Way it Really Was, a collection of stories that originally appeared in The Southwesterner, was published in 1988.

In the late 1960’s, Bill and his family moved to El Paso and he started The New Orleans Café, indulging his life long passion for Cajun and French cuisine. In the early 1970’s Bill again turned to show business, this time promoting The Royal Lipizzaner Stallions of Austria.

In 1975 he founded The El Paso Journal, a weekly newspaper whose motto was, “All the news that fits, we print.” After selling his interest in The Journal, he briefly worked with Jay Armes and Jack Anderson as part owner and Publisher of a national magazine, The Investigator. The El Paso Herald-Post named Bill “One of El Paso’s 10 Most Interesting Characters” in 1984.

In his last years, Bill battled Alzheimer’s and the effects of aging, but his spirit remained strong and cheerful. He was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy, and sister, Betty. He is survived by his sister, Ruth Ann Browne, of Indianapolis, IN., daughter, Pat Moffat, of Colorado Springs, his son, Mike McGaw; grandson, Michael, granddaughter Renee, and great-granddaughter, Jane. A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, September 13th at Corpus Christi Parish in Colorado Springs, CO.

Wheelin

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Again, apologies for lack of posting; the trip to Seattle was tiring (but fun to ride the ferries) and disrupted my schedule greatly.

Also, I've been getting back to something I used to enjoy greatly. exploring mountain roads in Colorado. On Sunday we took the Jeep and ran Eagle Rock, one of the two or three toughest "rock-crawling" trails in Colorado -- one member of the group ended up on his side, another nearly did.

Tomorrow we're leaving for Ourey and I hope to run two or three of the easier trails out there and get lots of pictures. May have time for only one or two more short runs before winter sets in this year, THEN I will settle down to a more regular posting schedule.

Paz y bien

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