Tod Herring: Terror of the East End.

Tod Herring, As Many of Us Older East Enders Remember Him.

If you grew up male in the Houston East End in the years following World War II, you knew who Tod Herring was by reputation, if not from painful personal experience. He was the meanest dog on any block for miles and none of us who grew up in his territory are likely to ever forget him. I was reminded of Tod yesterday when jack Murphy, an old St. Chistopher’s Catholic School buddy wrote to remind me of Tod’s once dominant terror upon our collective unconscious.

In Herring’s case, “collective unconscious” bears a more literal meaning than the definition intended by Dr. Carl Jung. With Tod, “collectively unconscious” would have been the probable group outcome for six average guys who tried to take on the biggest bully in Pecan Park and environs by themselves with no back-up plan.

Here’s what Jack Murphy said to me in his e-mail:

“Bill, if memory serves, the absolute official start of summer (in the East End) was marked by the reopening of the bathtub sized Mason Park Pool and the annual attempted drowning of yours truly by Tod Herring and his Southmayd (Elemenery School) gang of pagans.”

“Brother Bill (Murphy) always came to my rescue and the St. Christopher Catholics lived to drown another day while Tod went on to become the Texas Heavyweight champion and a sometime drinking companion.” – Jack Murphy

Jack Murphy’s memories of Tod Herring are a lot more personal than mine. They were each older than me, a fact that us younger eyewitnesses to street mayhem always quietly celebrated. Being younger and smaller than Tod Herring bought you a degree of invisibility in his presence. Tod always seemed more aware of those guys who were just as big or bigger than him, especially if they showed any kind of attitude that suggested they thought they were hot spit. On the physical and psychological planes, Tod Herring lived simply as the dominant alpha male – one main guy who wasn’t going to take any spit from anyone, especially from those who also thought they were more deserving of his top position in the pecking order of life on the East End streets.

The first time I saw Tod Herring in action was sufficiently convincing to me. Several of us were walking home from the Pecan Park school bus when we came up upon Tod getting into a screaming match with some other guy about his size. All of a sudden, the two guys are squaring off with double fists, and making this little circular look around each other.

Tod Herring

All of a sudden, the argument and fight are over with one blow to the jaw from a Herring right hand to the other fellow’s face. The other guy dropped to the sidewalk like a dead pigeon. He was out cold. The fairly ripped Tod Herring stood over him for a second or two and then just walked away. He never spoke or even acknowledged the presence of the rest of us before he walked away like Mr. Cool. I guess our cloaks of invisibility were working pretty good. And the other guy didn’t die. We helped him up as best we could. He then walked quietly away in the other direction from Herring, and also in a state of not saying much, if anything, to us onlookers.

My awareness of Tod Herring sort of dimmed after I finished the 8th grade at St. Christopher’s Catholic School and started commuting across town to St. Thomas High School. Herring and most of my Pecan Park neighborhood pals had headed for Milby High School. I’m not sure how Todd Herring got along in high school, but I can’t imagine it being much different from anything we had seen up to that point. My next awareness of Herring surfaced during my undergraduate years at UH (1956-60). I started reading about Tod Herring in the Houston Post as an up and coming heavyweight boxer.

That recognition of him as a boxer, left me with only four more freeze frame pictures of Tod Herring’s life to come as I went my own way through the early adult years:

(1) Fighting the Former Heavyweight Champ. On May 14, 1965, Tod Herring of Houston fought former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson in Stockholm, Sweden. Patterson knocked out Herring in 40 seconds of the third round, pretty much ending whatever hopes the former Houston bad boy still had for winning the title. I never thought much of Patterson prior to that fight, but that KO of Herring changed everything. Anyone who could knock out Tod Herring had to have something special going for him.

(2) Tod Herring Charged with Killing a Man in a Bar Fight. I have no dates for this memory or for any of the rest. It happened sometime in Houston in the early years that followed the end of Herring’s boxing career. Herring was charged with killing a man with his fists over some kind of bar argument. The prosecution argued that Herring’s professional background as a boxer even made his fists a “deadly weapon.” (Heck! A lot of us non-lawyers from the East End could have testified to that assertion.) At any rate, Tod was sentenced to the penitentiary, apparently going there with a drinking problem that wasn’t that easy to arrest.

(3) Tod Herring in Recovery. Sometime around 1980, I read in the Houston Post that Tod Herring was now out of prison and living a clean and sober life again back in the East End. The article even featured a great smiling photo of Tod Herring, swinging a golf club out in the sunshine of the Glenbrook Country Club, as Herring also bubbled with gentle praise for the lessons of recovery. He sounded nothing like the archetypical bogeyman that many of us grew up fearing. I was happy for him. He had family around him and they all seemed to love and support him in his recovery.

(4) Tod Herring is Dead. Not too many years later, I picked up the paper one day and learned that Todd Herring had passed away suddenly – from a heart attack, I think. I have no idea if Tod had been able to stay out the grip of his addictions since the time of that earlier feel-good article or not. He was just gone now. Gone again and this time for good. He was also gone again from my mind until my memory of him was reawakened in the e-mail from Jack Murphy.

What’s the lesson here? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s simply that even the monsters of our childhood memories are not all bad and terrible sometimes. Sometimes they are, but other times, they are just human beings who found a deeper way to get lost from love.

God rest your soul, Tod Herring, wherever you may be.


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33 Responses to “Tod Herring: Terror of the East End.”

  1. David Munger Says:

    “Telephone Road Todd” dated a High School Buddys’ Mother back
    in the late 60’s. We definately didn’t make loud “NOISES” when Todd
    was around.

    Thanks for “waking up the memory.”

  2. Charlie Hoge Says:

    I did not grow up with Tod but we were friends. When Tod went away in the Army he left his coup convertable with me with instructions to drive it if I wanted and share with his close friend Dan.
    I don’t know the details of the death in the bar but I do know that Tod would not take spit from anyone.
    I saw most of Tods profesional fights and he was not agresive until he had taken several punches.
    I have good memories in regard to Tod.

    Best Regards, Charlie

  3. Delvin Kendrick Says:

    First met Todd in 1953. I saw all of his professional fights. After he got out of prison, he come to know Jesus as his personal Lord & Savior. His was the largest non-police funeral I ever attended. Sagemont Baptist Church was standing room only.

  4. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Post bt Emory Gadd, Pastor, Sagemont Church, on another column link in this “The Pecan Park Eagle” blog site:

    Bill, I was put onto your Pecan Park Eagle. Grew up in South Park down the street from Jones High School. Have been Assoc Pastor at Sagemont Church for 39 years. Enjoyed your article about Todd Herring. Wanted to give you update. I conducted the funeral for Todd Herring, who was a active member at our church along with his wife Jan. Because of a personal decision he made to trust Christ as his Savior, he enjoyed many years. Todd was like all of us, who have made that personal decision, The Old Todd & The New Todd. I made that statement at his funeral that was packed at our church, that some of those present who knew just the Old Todd would be confused with my comments, Also those that just knew the New Todd would also be confused. I closed the service by sharing with those present as I used Todd’s Bible, that there was a list of names in the front of his Bible, of men that he was praying for. I did not read the names aloud. Jan told me later that for weeks she would get phone
    calls from men, from Todd’s past, wanting to know if their name was on that list. It was my experience to have known and heard of the Old Todd, but also it was my honorto know and be a friend of the New Todd. II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things pass away and all things become new”. You can be assured that God did rest his soul. Bill, thank you so much for that article about Todd Herring and your efforts to flood our hearts with memories of our past.

    • Marianne Herring Says:

      I am Tod’s sister. I just read the blog about Tod. Am so glad that Emory Gadd posted” the rest of the story” about Tod’s life. Living with Tod and my other two brothers, Allan and Earl as a kid growing up in Pecan Park, was an experience that I could write a book about. Tod had a very big heart and loved old people and little kids. He became a “gentle giant”. I can honestly say that when Tod died, I knew that he would be with his Maker because he became an inspiration to so many people over the years who had known “Tod A” and “Tod B”. I loved them both and so did God. I still miss him.Thank you so much for remembering him. Marianne Herring

      • Bill McCurdy Says:

        Dear Marianne,

        Thank you for that touching response to my article about Tod. As one of the “younger kids,”
        I always harbored a fairly equal amount of fear and respect for your brother. I also pulled
        for him during his boxing career and felt awfully sad about him being sentenced to the pen.
        A few later, I remember reading a newspaper article about his life beyond prison in recovery.
        It featured a photo of a smiling Tod, swinging a golf club at Glenbrook. Your message and the
        wonderful note from Pastor Gadd were heartwarming as confirmation to the happy ending to
        this story. My own belief is that “God is Love” and that Tod lived to find his redemption in that
        truth. As one old Pecan Parker to another, God Bless you and yours!

        Best always, Bill McCurdy

      • roger neil moss Says:

        Ms Herring, I was wondering if you had read my message on this site. roger neil moss

      • Steven alsobrook Says:

        Please contact me,i am earls brother vans grandson,steven alsobrook 8176819437,thank u

      • Kyle Herring Says:

        Aunt Marianne, our Herring name lives on with my two boys, Brady Allan Herring and Calvin Noel Herring. I live down in alvin and please call. 281-979-4819. My wife and I would love to introduce you to your great great nephews!

        Kyle Herring

  5. Alton Lindig Says:

    I have to say I was really saddened when reading about Tod’s big mistake where a man was killed in some bar. I really only knew him for about a year when we played on the JVarsity Basketball team for Lutheran High in Houston. Tod was a strong,competitive 6’3′ center and I played shooting guard. Our small high school competed in the city basketball championship game in which we lost by just a few points. Both Tod and myself were honored with being two of the six players in the tournament to receive ingraved”Gold Basketball” awards for being their choice for top competitors. Tod was a team player and was like my big brother so we played well together…what a kid! I moved to California the next year, so did not hear about him until he moved up in the boxing world. I certainly pulled for him throughout his career from afar. I enjoyed the responses of others that knew him well and liked him.

  6. Marianne Herring Says:

    I am his sister and I was reading again the comments about Tod.Bill, I had not read your reply to my message.

    Just to clear up something important.Tod was indicted for attempted murder and sentenced to two years at Huntsville but spent a little over a year. As bad as it was, the guy didn’t die and we were all thankful for that. Also, some of these guys always would “test” Tod just to see how he would react to them. Not very smart on their part. As I said in my other message, Tod got his life together and lived a good Christian life but sadly, died at age 54. I still miss my little brother. I appreciated so much what Emory Gadd had to say about Tod.

    • roger neil moss Says:

      Dear Ms. Herring, My name is Roger Neil Moss. Your brother Tod was married to my friend Paula A. Lopes. If I remember correctly, they had a child, a girl, who would be your niece. We are going to have a reunion of old friends this summer. If you know, and can, would you be kind enough to ask Paula to call Roger in Lufkin, Texas. Thank you and I remain, yours, roger neil moss

    • Michael Herring Says:

      Mrs. Marianne my name is Michael Herring I am one of your brothers children, my mother is Kathy. I would like to talk to you when you have time. My email is michaelherring1965@yahoo.com

  7. Gary Etie Says:

    In 1961, I was 11, a kid from Beaumont, visiting my uncles and aunts, who owned and operated “Etie’s Cafe”, in the Auditorium Hotel, at Texas and Louisiana.

    Tod worked out at Roxy’s Gym, across the street. Roxy was a good friend of my Uncle Warren Etie, and we’d go watch the workouts when Tod and Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams were in the gym.

    Two memories stand out for me … Tod whistling, confidently, as he bounced up the stairs leading to Roxy’s Gym, coat draped over his shoulders, for a workout after a visit to my uncle’s cafe … and a picture in a long, regrettably lost scrapbook, of Tod and Alfredo Zuany, heavyweight champion of Mexico, holding me up between them. Tod was my hero. He was larger than life, undefeated, and sitting on top of the world.

  8. Katie Peace La Bouve Says:

    In the younger years of Tod Damon & I would have been afraid to be out with a group with him but as years passed and he married Jan I am happy to say that we had a lot of fun out and about. I also attended his funeral at Sagemont and to this day the largest of any I have been in attendance, never have I been to a service that in the midst was so many different walks of life. Tod touched a lot of lifes, some bad and some very good.

  9. Bob Lenertz Says:

    Tod became an insulator in the early 70’s. I have a picture of him with the rest of the class at graduation. My father graduated with him. Let me know if you want a copy. Thanks.

  10. Bob Says:

    I have a photo of Tod graduating from Insulators School in the early 70’s inside the Houston Sheraton. My father was Tod’s friend and graduated with him.

  11. roger neil moss Says:

    awaiting a reply.

  12. Tommy Gibson Says:

    I knew Todd fairly well as I grew up in Pecan Park also. In the early 60’s, East End Transfer went out of business and someone changed it to a night club and named it The Silver Wheels. I was working there one night as a musician when I heard a disturbance coming from the pool room. Three guys decided to jump on Todd over a pool game. In about 30 seconds, all three were laying on the floor and a ambulance carried all three to the hospital. I didn’t see Todd again for about four years when I discovered we both were living at Villa Monterey apartments. One day I was outside in the courtyard talking to Todd when a car drove by and ran over a dog and drove away. The dog was injured really bad. Todd said, let’s take it to a Vet. So we did. Todd had no intention of paying the vet and gave them a fake name but saved the dog’s life. I knew then that Todd was not all bad. Some years later I moved away from Houston and did not learn of his death until recently, sorry to hear about that. God be with you.

  13. Bryan Lawson Says:

    When 13 I saw Tod beat Sonny Moore in 1962 for TX Heavyweight belt. Both were badly cut up. He was a very tough guy. Also saw the Cleveland Williams fight. Maybe this is urban legend, but did anyone ever hear of a fight he had with Houston Oiler’s Don Floyd at a Telephone Road bar?

  14. Ake Sintring Says:

    Reading this is fascinating to me. As a young writer in a Swedish sportspaper I met Tod in his hotel when he was going to fight Floyd Patterson in Stockholm. I wrote about this. The other day I found that old text. I decided to google for Tod. And I found this! It is sad to hear that he is dead. But he lived a happy life the last years? I would appreciate coming into contact with some of his friends or relatives. I have a very good photo from the match Patterson-Herring. akesintring@hotmail.com

  15. Duane Says:

    Very nice post about Tod. Knew him through my bro in law, Larry Wood in the mid 60’s when I was a teenager. Met him a several times. Someone said he was a gentle giant,,,I will agee.

  16. Steven alsobrook Says:

    I am the grandson of van herring and todds 2nd cousin,i lost jans # years ago,please contact me at 8176819437,thank u !

    • Steven alsobrook Says:

      i have tried to get someone to contact me,im van herrings grandson and i always looked up to todd so why cant i get someone to contact me,steven alsobrook8176819436

  17. Jan Herring Spence Says:

    I was Tod’s wife for 14 years and with him when he died….if someone needs to get in touch with me I would be happy to hear from them….I knew Tod better than anyone….a wonderful man…my email janspence777@yahoo.com….

  18. Tom Cary Says:

    I lived within 2 blocks from Tod growing up Played softball together at Broadway Baptist church. Never knew him as a bully. Donnie Mintz & I went to see his match with Cleveland Williams. We had mutual friend in Norris Womack, the barber. I knew of his troubles in growing up, prison etc. However what’s more important is that he found the Lord and the fruit of his spirit was poored out at Sagemont Baptist Church.

  19. george shepherd Says:

    I grew up in Pecan park and lived across the street from Tod .We were close to the same age. We fought a lot from probably age 7 or eight until age 12 to 13. I finally realized that I could not whip him and was smart enough to stay out of conflicts with Tod .

    I have read all the reply’s about Tod and some are true and some are not. Was glad to see thar his sister stated that Tod did not kill any one. Also Tod was given a pardon for his crime , the late Bob Gammage who served as a US congressman and Texas Surpreme Court Judge was very instrumental in making this happen. I think this happened some time in the 1980’s..
    ed
    Tod really had a big heart and loved small kids, I saw this first hand. As kid Tod was a very good cartoon artist . He could draw all the Disney characters as well as any artist .

    I moved away from Houston in the early eighties and lost touch with him. When I heard he had passed away I was very sad I missed his funeral.

    Thank of Tod often and am glad that he turn his life around, I think his wife Jan was a major factor in the change and I hope she is doing well.

    I could go on with stories about Tod a lot longer, but these are several that probably most people did’nt know about him. He turned out to be a good man

  20. Paul Massey Says:

    My dad and Todd were very close friends, even though Todd was about 6 years older than my dad. I remember every story my dad told about Todds wild days as well as his boxing days. I remember one story in particular. It was early in Todds boxing days, at an un-named venue. My dad was at the fight, having a beer and talking with Todd before the fight. His opponent came over to the table and introduced himself. He told Todd and my dad that he heard that this was one of Todd’s first paid fights. He told Todd and my dad, “I hear you are new to boxing and he told Todd, “I’ll take it easy on you” Todd never replied. Todd knocked him out maybe a minute into the fight. Todd hovered over the opponent and said with a grin, “Man I really appreciate you taking it easy on me”

  21. Kyle Herring Says:

    I’m Tod Herrings great nephew and grandson of the late Allan Herring. I can’t believe I found this article. I was born in 84 don’t remember him being so young, but I’ve always heard stories from my family and to see something written about him leave me speechless. To the writer, please send me an email if you see this. If love to hear any and all the stories of this man you have!

  22. Dick Taylor Says:

    I grew up in Houston and went to several of Todd’s fights in the Sam Houston Coliseum-The Zora Folley fight comes to mind. Tod was one tough dude,rarely took a backward step, and was never in a boring fight. So sad to learn of his passing.

  23. Hunter cogdel Says:

    Truly a fascinating read. Tod Herring was my grandfather on my mothers side. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years before I was born so I never head the chance to meet him. I have done as much research on the Internet as I possibly can to gain a better understanding of who he was as a person both inside and outside the ring. Thank you for taking your time to post your memories and experiences with my grandfather.

  24. Lynn Etheredge Says:

    Tod came into my mind just a few minutes ago so I googled his name and I came across your story. I’ll tell you mine. I was going to the U of H in I’m guessing around 1964 when a pal and I were in a bar somewhere in Houston. We we’re sitting at the bar and I was halfway facing my friend and kinda had my right elbow on the bar pushing against the arm of whoever was beside me. It continued for a time when my pal whispered that I was about to get the chit beat out of me. Then he quietly explained that it was Tod Herring the former heavyweight champion of Texas.
    I removed my arm slowly and said we might ought to leave.
    Thanks, I enjoyed your story.

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