In August 1942, one of Tacoma’s most famous hometown boys rolled into Union Station. He was in town with a USO troupe to entertain soldiers at Fort Lewis, but the celebrity also headlined a show at the Liberty Center.
His name was Harry Lillis Crosby, known by most as “Bing.” Born May 3, 1903, in Tacoma, Bing Crosby would go on to be one of the most celebrated singers of all time. His music, especially his Christmas music, is synonymous with the season.
He’s one of the precursors to the South Sound’s rich history of music. Artists to follow include Neko Case, Vicki Martinez, and Sleater-Kinney, among others.
Along the sidewalk on J Street near St. Patrick’s Church, there’s a plaque. Something so simple and unassuming, it marks Crosby’s birthplace and first home. Today, the home remains a private residence.
He didn’t stay local long. The Crosby family moved to Spokane in 1906, when he was 3 years old.
“(T)his city is the birthplace of the man who gave respectability to the word ‘crooner,’ the man who — through records, films, radio, and television — was at one time the world’s best-known entertainer,” The Seattle Times reported in 1982. “And so, slowly but surely, Tacoma is getting around to paying its respects to a native son.”
For years, The Bing Crosby Historical Society was based in Tacoma, amassing a collection of Crosbyana that was eventually donated to Gonzaga University in Spokane. The historical society folded in 1993. At its height, it boasted 350 members from 12 countries.
It was run by Ken Twiss, who began collecting Crosby 78s during the Great Depression. At one time, the society had plans to purchase Crosby’s old house, but that never came to fruition.
While Tacoma is Crosby’s undisputed birthplace, there was a dispute about his actual birthdate. Wire stories and the 1953 autobiography by Crosby himself all had the year wrong. Part of the problem was the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department was unable to find the official record, according to The News Tribune 1977 reports. The dispute was settled when Tacoma’s St. Patrick’s Parish found records that showed he was baptized (and born) in 1903.
Either way, the city can lay claim to Crosby as one of its most famous residents.
The Bing Crosby Supermix (Christmas and Beyond)
- “The Christmas Song”
- “Pistol Packin’ Mama”
- “White Christmas”
- “Swinging On a Star”
- “Winter Wonderland”
- “Pennies From Heaven”
- “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”