Marion B. McClure
HSU Cowboy Band Director, BA 1933
Marion B. McClure was born in Sayre, Oklahoma, on July 16, 1909. His family later moved to Amarillo, Texas, where Marion began playing the drums. After graduating from high school in 1927, Marion took his music on the road, but abiding by his father’s strict rules, returned home to attend West Texas Teachers Academy in 1928. The call of the road prevailed however; and in 1929 during a stop in Abilene to visit a friend, Marion attended an HSU Cowboy Band rehearsal as a spectator. He was so impressed that he enrolled in HSU in so that he could play in the band.
After graduation from HSU in 1933 with both a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Music degree, Marion taught band in Albany, Texas, for a year and then returned to Hardin-Simmons in 1934 to become director of the Cowboy Band. Except for military service during World War II, Marion continued as the Cowboy Band director until his death in 1973.
On May 30, 1942, “Prof” McClure (as he was affectionately called by his students) enlisted in the armed forces, reporting to Camp Wolters at Mineral Wells, Texas, for basic training. After Officers’ Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was commissioned January 11, 1943, he was sent to Guadalcanal as a music officer in the Special Service Division, American Service Forces.
With “Prof” leaving for the army, the Cowboy Band was without a director. Enrollment numbers were down because of the war, and when the interim director left after only seven months, the band discontinued operations for the duration of the war.
Captain Marion B. McClure returned to the Hardin-Simmons campus in March of 1946, after 31 months in the southwest Pacific. His association with military bands continued for many years as a reserve Army officer. He retired from the reserves as a lieutenant colonel.
In the summer of 1946, “Prof” completed a Master of Music degree from VanderCook School of Music in Chicago, and in 1959, he did post-graduate work at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
Under his direction, the Cowboy Band traveled extensively, playing for American Legion, Jaycees, and VFW national conventions. The band became known to rodeo fans all over the United States and internationally traveled to Europe, several Atlantic islands, and Japan. The band appeared with Bob Hope, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, and Paul Whiteman. They gave performances for Eleanor Roosevelt, King George and Queen Mary of England, and participated in inaugural parades for presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Nixon.
Marion composed the HSU fight song, “Parade of the Purple and Gold,” and was present during the band’s longest parade march ever: the 17-mile trek through the streets of New York City for the national championship rodeo in 1934.
Many students who played under his direction went on to become band directors and professional musicians, including Francis McBeth, Clarence Gates, Bryan Shelburne, Jack Grogan, Pat Patterson, Dub Crain, James Mallow, Bill Woods, and Don Hanna.
The students who dedicated the 1964 yearbook to him wrote, “To a man who has brought color to the university. To a man who is always looking for opportunity. To a teacher who knows no limits in working with his students. To a conductor who has not only brought world fame to the Cowboy Band, but to Hardin-Simmons. And most of all, to a man with a touch of love in his heart for our school.”
He was named Bandmaster of the Year in 1971 by the Texas Bandmasters Association, and later that year received HSU’s Keeter Alumni Service Award. He was posthumously inducted into the Texas Bandmaster’s Hall of Fame in 1992.
McClure’s memberships included the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, College Band Directors National Association, Percussive Arts Society, Retired Officers Association, Masonic Lodge, and he was Adjudicator for Interscholastic League. He was also a member of University Baptist Church.
After Marion’s death in 1973, his wife, Dorothy, wrote a book detailing the Cowboy Band from 1923 to 1973. She passed away in 2007. The couple had one son, William L. McClure, a granddaughter, Colleen Anne McClure, and a grandson, William Booth McClure.
In 1977, two former Cowboy Band members presented to HSU in his memory a marble bust of Marion, which is displayed in the Cowboy Band Hall.
In the words spoken by the late Dr. Rupert Richardson at Marion’s memorial service, “He was a patriot, a Christian, a worthy citizen, a good man.”
It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct Dr. Marion B. McClure into the HSU Hall of Leaders. We would like to thank the family of Dr. McClure for attending this event in his honor.