Editor’s note: This blog is part of a video series by the City of Round Rock to highlight impactful locations in the City’s history.
One of Round Rock’s most iconic bridges stands today as a memorial to a tragedy that took place 95 years ago.
The South Mays Street bridge over the Union Pacific railroad line was designated the Immortal Ten Bridge in 2017 to commemorate a tragic bus crash that killed 10 basketball players, coaches and fans from Baylor University who were traveling to Austin for a game. Those who died are honored as The Immortal Ten at Baylor through stories at the annual Mass Meeting held during Baylor’s Homecoming Week, and through statues on campus that serve as physical reminders of the tradition of the story.
Todd Copeland, an alumnus of Baylor University who currently serves as the Unversity’s Director of Advancement Marketing, was compelled to write a book on the tragedy in 2006.
“The story of the Immortal Ten continues to be told because it is a story that does embody the Baylor spirit — a spirit of community, a spirit of having compassion and care for one another,” he said.
On January 22, 1927, the Baylor basketball team was headed to Austin to play against The University of Texas. The weather was cold and rainy as the team and others boarded a small bus.
The highway from Waco to Austin included many turns as drivers traveled along farmland. The bus arrived in Round Rock and proceeded from Main Street to Mays Street, which at that time crossed the railroad tracks. The driver was not familiar with the highway and the windshield was difficult to see through due to rain and debris from the road. No one heard the horn sounding from an incoming train, and despite the student driver’s best efforts, the train hit the bus, killing 10 of the 22 occupants.
“People in Round Rock came to the scene right away — all the neighbors,” Copeland said. “One woman took her laundry off the clothesline to use as bandages for the victims.”
As a result of the crash, the Mays Street bridge was erected as the first railroad overpass in Texas in 1935. When that happened, the Texas Historical Commission provided a plaque that summarized the tragedy and honored those involved.
The City of Round Rock dedicated the bridge on the 90th anniversary of the tragedy and added various Baylor-inspired aesthetic enhancements such as green and gold striping, 10 light poles and plaques to honor each of the victims. Several family members of the victims and survivors were in attendance.
“For Round Rock to open itself up to that memory and that desire to keep the memory of those 10 students alive, it does say a lot about Round Rock as a community that it wants to recognize everything that has happened in the City’s history — tragic, wonderful and everything in between,” Copeland said.