Walter Ray Matthews
October 19, 1934 – April 28, 2014
"He taught us how to stand up to opposition. In baseball, there is a lot of razzing and yelling...Walt was just like John Wayne, and lead the charge to retaliate." -Joe Morgan, Baseball Hall of Famer and two time World Series champion
On April 28, 2014 Walter Ray Matthews, a larger than life hero, whose steadfast integrity shaped the careers of countless major league baseball players for over 50 years, died in a local hospital with his devoted wife, Vicki, by his side, following a valiant fight against a lengthy illness.
Born on October 19, 1934, to Edward and Ava Matthews, Walter Ray came of age on a farm in Hicks community. His love of baseball and football took root early, and at Ashdown High School he distinguished himself as a defensive tackle for the Panther varsity team. While attending the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Walter Ray became a two sport letterman, playing both football and baseball. With the Razorbacks, his athletic finesse was fully realized in 1954, when he and his teammates upset Rice University 28-15 in a now legendary football game that drew a crowd of 38,000 to War Memorial Stadium. In 1955 as part of the famed "25 Little Pigs", Walter Ray lead the Razorbacks to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas; despite losing to Georgia Tech, this bowl game was a harbinger for the Razorback football dynasty of the Twentieth Century. After graduating with honors from the University of Arkansas, Walter Ray was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, fulfilling a lifelong dream; however, fate would direct him to the minor leagues affiliated with the Houston Astros. As the first baseman and outfielder for the Durham, NC Bulls (inspiration for the Kevin Costner classic "Bull Durham"), Walter Ray still holds the record for the most home runs hit in a single year - 30 home runs in 1963. Following stints as manager for the Salisbury, NC, and Cocoa, FL, teams, Walter Ray was promoted to an Astros talent scout in 1967, which proved to be his greatest contribution to baseball. Traveling across the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, Walter Ray nobly sought out the best and brightest, regardless of race or ethnicity. Overall, he dedicated 51 years of continuous service to the Houston Astros, which is the most in baseball franchise history. In 2004, Walter Ray was inducted into the Texas Scouts Association Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Texarkana Sports Hall of Fame in 1976.
Aside from his prestigious career with the Astros, Walter Ray devoted himself to his family, and to raising pedigreed horses, some of which raced at Oaklawn and Louisiana Downs. The joy of Walter Ray's last nine years of life was his grandson Jaxon Jester, who he affectionately called "Peanut".
Survivors include his wife, Vicki Jester Matthews of Ashdown,AR; sons and daughter-in-law, Patrick and Anna Matthews of Little Rock,AR, and Mike Matthews of Ashdown,AR; stepsons Joe Jester and wife Kate of Fayetteville,AR and Jason Jester and wife, Emily, of Ashdown,AR; stepdaughter Beverly "Boopie" Hash of Texarkana, TX; brother and sister-in-law, John Ed and Juanita Matthews of Ada,OK; grandchildren Brooke Hash Asher of Houston, TX, Chase Hash of Texarkana,TX, and Jaxon Jester of Ashdown,AR; and great grandchild, Hosston Asher of Houston,TX.
He was a Baptist and attended Central Baptist Church in Ashdown,AR.
His body will lie in state from noon Saturday, May 3, 2014, until 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at East Funeral Home, Moores Lane.
Services will be 1:00 PM Tuesday May 6, 2014 at East Funeral Home, Moores Lane Chapel, Texarkana,Texas with Brother Don Embry of Ashdown,AR, and Brother Phil Lineberger of Sugarland, TX, officiating. Special tributes from the baseball fraternity will include; Tal Smith, former Astros President, Pat Gillick, Hall of Fame, Senior Advisor for Philadelphia Phillies, Bill Wood, former Astros General Manager, Doug Deutsch, Retired Astros Scout, Tim Purpura, Texas Rangers, Dan O'Brien, Special Assistant to the GM Milwaukee brewers, Gerry Hunsicker, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pat Murphy, Tampa Bay Rays, Lew Temple, Actor "Unstoppable" , "The Lone Ranger", " The Walking Dead", "The Waitress".
Family will receive friends from 6-8pm, Monday, May 5, 2014 at East Funeral Home, Moores Lane.
Memorials may be made to the Walt Matthews Memorial Baseball Fund at Regions Bank Account#0199792249.
Online tributes may be submitted to www.eastfuneralhomes.com
" I Have fought the good fight; I have finished my course. I have kept the faith."-2 Timothy 4:7
" Our beloved Walter Ray has been for the last time called safe at Home."
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Walter Ray Matthews
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