G.W. Bailey talks of Port Arthur’s past

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, January 26, 2023

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce.

Actor G.W. Bailey returned to his roots in Port Arthur for the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce’s 123rd Annual Banquet.

Bailey spoke to a sold out crowd at Thursday night, touching on his acting career and of the city he loves.

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Standing at the podium Bailey broke the ice, joking of how those seated around him at the head table had their names and titles in front of them.

His read “G.W. Bailey, Hollywood actor.”

Actor G.W. Bailey, left, speaks with Jeff Hayes before the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce’s 123rd Annual Banquet Thursday night. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“I said, as I’ve said many times to people who ask me where I’m from, I’m from Port Auh-tur baby. I’m from Port Auh-tur and they don’t know where Port Auh-tur is. They don’t know Port Arthur,” Bailey said of the special pronunciation. “They’re not from here if they don’t know Port Auh-tur.”

Bailey joked about how decades ago there was a house of prostitution run by a woman named Gracie Woodyard. It seemed everyone knew who she was back then.

Woodyard’s operation was so successful she reportedly paid the city’s bills — and likely had friendships with people of authority.

Woodyard’s business venture was halted after the James Commission came in and put a stop to most of the vice in the county in the 1960s.

“Growing up we didn’t know a damn thing about Spindletop or Stilwell or any of that but we knew about Gracie,” he said with a laugh.

During his time at the podium Bailey used a few phrases that are no longer commonly used when speaking of different cultures. This lead to the crowd becoming a bit quiet.

Following the event, Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Pat Avery released a statement:

“Regrettably, on Thursday, January 26th, at the 123rd Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet, the invited speaker made comments during his speech that were not representative of our Chamber’s values or our community’s standards. We apologize to our board, members, guests, general public, and regret that his remarks were offensive.”

Bailey later listed names of notable Port Arthurans such as Janis Joplin and Jimmy Johnson, both of whom he went to high school with. He also spoke of artist Robert Rauschenberg, also from Port Arthur, and of Bubba Smith, an Orange native who co-starred with Bailey in the movie Police Academy.

Bailey, an entertainment veteran with more than 100 acting credits to his name, is known for iconic roles on M*A*S*H, Police Academy, The Closer and Major Crimes.

He attended Thomas Jefferson High School and Texas Tech University.

Also during the banquet Dr. Mark Porterie, Port Arthur Independent School District superintendent, was honored with the 2023 Arthur E. Stilwell Award.

The incoming 2023 Chamber chairperson is Randy Sonnier.