Thomas Morgan Woodward was born on 16th September 1925 in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, and grew up in Arlington, Texas, graduating from high school in 1944.
Woodward was a member of the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. He returned to the military during the Korean War, this time as a lieutenant in special services. Following his service he enrolled at North Texas Agriculture College, where joined the theatre.
In 1948, he transferred to the University of Texas, from which he graduated with a degree in corporation finance. He went on to attend law school at UT. During that time he hosted a local radio talk show and sang with a barbershop quartet and a dance band.
His uncle, Dr. S.A. Woodward, lived in the San Angelo, Texas area. One day, he was called to help in the birth of a male child. The family, not knowing what gender was expected, had not chosen a name, so in honour of the good doctor’s service, they named him Woodward Ritter. Later, he would be known more widely as Tex Ritter.
In 1956 Woodward debuted in The Great Locomotive Chase as Alex, roles followed in Zane Grey Theater, Westward Ho – the Wagons!, Slaughter on 10th Avenue, and many other Western themed TV shows of the time. Then in 1958 Woodward landed the role of Shotgun Gibbs in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp; he would remain with the series until 1961.
The 1960’s remained a busy time for Woodward with a number of roles on the big and small screen including Perry Mason, Lawman, The Gun Hawk, Rawhide, Wagon Train, Days of our Lives, The Big Valley, Daniel Boone, Death Valley Days, The Lucy Show, Cool Hand Luke, Bonanza, Tarzan, Star Trek, and The Virginian.
Woodward remained active throughout the 1970’s and 80’s with roles (often as a villain of the week) in One Little Indian, Running Wild, Chase, Doc Elliot, McMillan & Wife, Kung Fu, Gunsmoke, Police Woman, Planet of the Apes, The Hatfields and the McCoys, Petrocelli, Cannon, A Small Town in Texas, Supervan, Logan’s Run, Starsky and Hutch, The Waltons, Project: U.F.O., How the West Was Won, The Incredible Hulk, CHiPS, Battle Beyond The Stars, Enos, Simon and Simon, Fantasy Island, Hill Street Blues, Knightrider, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Matt Houston, Hunter, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team, The Fall Guy, T.J. Hooker, Dallas, and Murder She Wrote.
In 1988, Woodward was presented with the “Golden Lariat Award” at the National Western Film Festival; he also received the prestigious “Golden Boot Award” from the Hollywood Motion Picture and Television Fund.
Moving into the 1990’s saw Woodward’s star placed on the “Walk of Western Stars” at the William S. Hart Museum and Park in Santa Clarita, California. He also remained active with roles in 21 Jump Street, Gunsmoke: To the Last Man, Matlock, Renegade, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., and The X-Files.
In August 1995, Woodward received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for Western film acting from the “Wild West Film Festival” in Sonora, California. His last role to date was in 1997 in an episode of Millennium. That same year Woodward celebrated 50 years in show business and was given the “International Star Award” in Los Angeles, California. Later, an article in Newsweek magazine on screen “heavies” entitled “The Dirty Half Dozen” named Woodward as on of the six most wanted bad guys in television and motion pictures.
In March 2006, Woodward received the Cowboy Spirit Award at the 16th Annual Bison Homes Festival of the West held in Phoenix for “embodying the integrity, strength of spirit, and moral character depicted by the American cowboy.” Then in 2009, Woodward was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Woodward’s chief hobby is restoring, rebuilding and flying antique airplanes. In aviation circles, he is recognized as an authority on Early American Aircraft and has received numerous awards for his restoration projects. Now retired, Woodward divides his time between his ranch in Paso Robles, California and his home in Hollywood.
“Recognition is a funny thing. I’ve been recognized for many roles and recently I had someone remember me from an old show I did more than 20 years ago. It was such an obscure role that it took me a few minutes to remember the part myself. But it’s amazing what people will remember you for doing. I still get response about my role as Shotgun Gibbs on ‘Wyatt Earp’ and that ended in the early 60’s.”