Waco (/ˈweɪkoʊ/ WAY-koh) is a city which is the county seat of McLennan County, Texas, United States. It is situated along the Brazos River and I-35, halfway between Dallas and Austin. The city had a 2010 population of 124,805, making it the 22nd-most populous city in the state. The US Census 2016 population estimate is 134,432 The Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area consists of McLennan and Falls Counties, which had a 2010 population of 234,906. Falls County was added to the Waco MSA in 2013. The US Census 2016 population estimate for the Waco MSA is 265,207.
Indigenous peoples occupied areas along the river for thousands of years. In historic times, the area of present-day Waco was occupied by the Wichita Indian tribe known as the "Waco" (Spanish: Hueco or Huaco).
In 1824, Thomas M. Duke was sent to explore the area after the Waco people tried to defend themselves and their lands from settlers. His report to Stephen F. Austin, described the Waco village:
"This town is situated on the West Bank of the River. They have a spring almost as cold as ice itself. All we want is some Brandy and Sugar to have Ice Toddy. They have about 400 acres (1.6 km2) planted in corn, beans, pumpkins, and melons and that tended in good order. I think they cannot raise more than One Hundred Warriors."
After further violence due to settler incursion, Austin halted an attempt to destroy their village in retaliation. In 1825, he made a treaty with them. The Waco were eventually pushed out of the region, settling north near present-day Fort Worth. In 1872, they were forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma with other Wichita tribes. In 1902, the Waco received allotments of land and became official US citizens. Neil McLennan settled in an area near the South Bosque River in 1838. Jacob De Cordova bought McLennan's property and hired a former Texas Ranger and surveyor named George B. Erath to inspect the area. In 1849, Erath designed the first block of the city. Property owners wanted to name the city Lamartine, but Erath convinced them to name the area Waco Village, after the Indians who had lived there. In March 1849, Shapley Ross built the first house in Waco, a double-log cabin, on a bluff overlooking the springs. His daughter Kate was the first settler child to be born in Waco.
In 1866, Waco's leading citizens embarked on an ambitious project to build the first bridge to span the wide Brazos River. They formed the Waco Bridge Company to build the 475-foot (145 m) brick Waco Suspension Bridge, which was completed in 1870. The company commissioned a firm owned by John Augustus Roebling in Trenton, New Jersey, to supply the cables and steelwork for the bridge, and contracted with Mr. Thomas M. Griffith, a civil engineer based in New York, for the supervisory engineering work on the bridge. The economic effects of the Waco bridge were immediate and large. The cowboys and cattle-herds following the Chisholm Trail north, crossed the Brazos River at Waco. Some chose to pay the Suspension Bridge toll, while others floated their herds down the river. The population of Waco grew rapidly, as immigrants now had a safe crossing for their horse-drawn carriages and wagons. Since 1971, the bridge has been open only to pedestrian traffic and is in the National Register of Historic Places.
In the late 19th century, a red-light district called the "Reservation" grew up in Waco, and prostitution was regulated by the city. The Reservation was suppressed in the early 20th century. In 1885, the soft drink Dr Pepper was invented in Waco at Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store.
In 1845, Baylor University was founded in Independence, Texas, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Texas. It moved to Waco in 1886 and merged with Waco University, becoming an integral part of the city. The university's Strecker Museum was also the oldest continuously operating museum in the state until it closed in 2003, and the collections were moved to the new Mayborn Museum Complex. In 1873, AddRan College was founded by brothers Addison and Randolph Clark in Fort Worth. The school moved to Waco in 1895, changing its name to Add-Ran Christian University and taking up residence in the empty buildings of Waco Female College. Add-Ran changed its name to Texas Christian University in 1902 and left Waco after the school's main building burned down in 1910. TCU was offered a 50-acre (200,000 m2) campus and $200,000 by the city of Fort Worth to relocate there.
In the 1890s, William Cowper Brann published the highly successful Iconoclast newspaper in Waco. One of his targets was Baylor University. Brann revealed that Baylor officials had been importing South American children recruited by missionaries and making house-servants out of them. Brann was shot in the back by Tom Davis, a Baylor supporter. Brann then wheeled, drew his pistol, and killed Davis. Brann was helped home by his friends, and died there of his wounds.
In 1894, the first Cotton Palace fair and exhibition center was built to reflect the dominant contribution of the agricultural cotton industry in the region. Since the end of the Civil War, cotton had been cultivated in the Brazos and Bosque valleys, and Waco had become known nationwide as a top producer. Over the next 23 years, the annual exposition would welcome over eight million attendees. The opulent building which housed the month-long exhibition was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1910. In 1931, the exposition fell prey to the Great Depression, and the building was torn down. However, the annual Cotton Palace Pageant continues, hosted in late April in conjunction with the Brazos River Festival.
On September 15, 1896, "The Crash" took place about 15 miles (24 km) north of Waco. "The Crash at Crush" was a publicity stunt done by the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad company (known as M-K-T or "Katy"), featuring two locomotives intentionally set to a head-on collision. Meant to be a family fun event with food, games, and entertainment, the Crash turned deadly when both boilers exploded simultaneously, sending metal flying in the air. Two people died and six were seriously injured.
In 1916, an African American teenager named Jesse Washington was tortured, mutilated, and burned to death in the town square by a mob that seized him from the courthouse, where he had been convicted of murdering a white woman. About 15,000 spectators, mostly citizens of Waco, were present. The commonly named Waco Horror drew international condemnation and became the cause célèbre of the nascent NAACP's anti-lynching campaign. In 2006, the Waco City Council officially condemned the lynching, which took place without opposition from local political or judicial leaders.
In the 1920s, despite the popularity of the Ku Klux Klan and high numbers of lynchings throughout Texas, Waco's authorities attempted to respond to the NAACP's campaign and institute more protections for African Americans or others threatened with mob violence and lynching. In 1923, Waco's Sheriff Leslie Stegall protected Roy Mitchell, an African American coerced into confessing to multiple murders, from mob lynching. Mitchell was the last Texan to be publicly executed in Texas, and also the last to be hanged before the introduction of the electric chair. In the same year, the Texas Legislature created the Tenth Civil Court of Appeals and placed it in Waco; it is now known as the 10th Court of Appeals.
In 1937, Grover C. Thomsen and R.H. Roark created a soft-drink called "Sun Tang Red Cream Soda". This would later become known as the soft drink Big Red.
On May 5, 1942, Waco Army Air Field opened as a basic pilot training school, and on June 10, 1949, the name was changed to Connally Air Force Base in memory of Col. James T. Connally, a local pilot killed in Japan in 1945. The name changed again in 1951 to the James Connally Air Force Base. The base closed in May 1966 and is now the location of Texas State Technical College, formerly Texas State Technical Institute, since 1965. The airfield is still in operation, now known as TSTC Waco Airport, and was used by Air Force One when former US President George W. Bush visited his Prairie Chapel Ranch, also known as the Western White House, in Crawford, Texas.
On May 11, 1953, a tornado hit downtown Waco, killing 114. As of 2011, it remains the 11th-deadliest tornado in U.S. history and tied for the deadliest in Texas state history. It was the first tornado tracked by radar and helped spur the creation of a nationwide storm surveillance system. A granite monument featuring the names of those killed was placed downtown in 2004.
In 1964, the Texas Department of Public Safety designated Waco as the site for the state-designated official museum of the legendary Texas Rangers law enforcement agency founded in 1823. In 1976, it was further designated the official Hall of Fame for the Rangers and renamed the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Renovations by the Waco government earned this building green status, the first Waco government-led project of its nature. The construction project has fallen under scrutiny for expanding the building over unmarked human graves.
In 1978, bones were discovered emerging from the mud at the confluence of the Brazos and Bosque Rivers. Subsequent excavations revealed that the bones were 68,000 years old and belonged to a species of mammoth. Eventually, the remains of at least 24 mammoths, one camel, and one large cat were found at the site, making it one of the largest findings of its kind. Scholars have puzzled over why such a large herd had been killed all at once. The site is currently being looked at by the National Park Service for possible inclusion into the National Park system. They are conducting a special resource study to be presented to Congress. The bones are currently on display at the Waco Mammoth National Monument, part of the National Park Service.
On February 28, 1993, a shootout occurred in which six Branch Davidians and four agents of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms died. After 50 days, on April 19, 1993, a standoff between FBI agents and Branch Davidians ended in a fire that destroyed their compound, referred to as Mt. Carmel, near Waco. Seventy-four people, including leader David Koresh, died in the blaze. This event became known as the Waco siege.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, Waco was the home to the White House Press Center. The press center provided briefing and office facilities for the press corps whenever Bush visited his "Western White House" Prairie Chapel Ranch near Crawford, about 25 miles (40 km) northwest of Waco.
On May 17, 2015, a violent dispute among rival biker gangs broke out at Twin Peaks restaurant. The Waco police intervened, with nine dead and 18 injured in the incident. More than 170 were arrested. No bystanders, Twin Peak employees, or officers were killed in the process. This was the most high-profile criminal incident since the Waco siege, and the deadliest shootout in the city's history.
Waco is located at 31°33'5" North, 97°9'21" West (31.551516, -97.155930).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 95.5 square miles (247 km2). 84.2 square miles (218 km2) of it is land and 11.3 square miles (29 km2) of it is covered by water. The total area is 11.85% water.
Waco experiences a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa), characterized by hot summers and generally mild winters. Some 90 °F (32 °C) temperatures have been observed in every month of the year. The record low temperature is −5 °F (−21 °C), set on January 31, 1949; the record high temperature is 112 °F (44 °C), set on August 11, 1969.
|Climate data for Waco, Texas (1981–2010 normals)|
|Record high °F (°C)||90|
|Average high °F (°C)||58.7|
|Average low °F (°C)||36.4|
|Record low °F (°C)||−5|
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||2.12|
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||7.1||6.8||8.3||6.3||8.1||7.5||5.3||5.0||5.8||7.2||7.3||7.1||81.8|
As of the census of 2010, 124,805 people resided in the city, organized into 51,452 households and 27,115 families. The population density was recorded as 1,350.6 people per square mile (521.5/km2), with 45,819 housing units at an average density of 544.2 per square mile (210.1/km2). The 2000 racial makeup of the city was 60.78% White, 22.65% African American, 1.38% Asian, 0.51% Native American, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 12.38% from other races, and 2.26% from two or more races. About 23.6% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race. Non-Hispanic Whites were 45.8% of the population in 2010, down from 66.6% in 1980.
In 2000, the census recorded 42,279 households, of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.4% were married couples living together, 16.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.4% were not families. Around 31.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone at 65 years of age or older. The average household size was calculated as 2.49 and the average family size 3.19.
In 2000, 25.4% of the population was under the age of 18, 20.3% from 18 to 24, 25.0% from 25 to 44, 16.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years. For every 100 females, there are 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $26,264, and for a family was $33,919. Males had a median income of $26,902 versus $21,159 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,584. About 26.3% of the population and 19.3% of families lived below the poverty line. Of the total population, 30.9% of those under the age of 18 and 13.0% of those 65 and older lived below the poverty line.
Waco has a council-manager form of government. Citizens are represented on the City Council by six elected members; five from single-member districts and a mayor who is elected at-large. The city offers a full line of city services typical of an American city this size, including: police, fire, Waco Transit buses, electric utilities, water and wastewater, solid waste, and the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Heart of Texas Council of Governments is headquartered in Waco on South New Road. This regional agency is a voluntary association of cities, counties, and special districts in the Central Texas area.
The Waco Fire Department operates 15 fire stations throughout the city.
According to the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, the top employers in the city as of July 2015 are:
|2||Waco Independent School District||2,500|
|3||Providence Health Center||2,397|
|5||Baylor Scott & White Health (Hillcrest)||1,800|
|7||City of Waco||1,506|
|9||Midway Independent School District||1,067|
|10||Sanderson Farms, Inc.||1,041|
The town of Waco was built around the Waco Suspension Bridge, which was a crucial crossing of the Brazos River upon completion in 1870. Today, downtown Waco is relatively small when compared to other larger Texas cities, such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, or even Fort Worth, El Paso, or Austin. However, each day, nearly 20,000 people commute to and from work in downtown. It is also the location of the McLennan County Courthouse.
In May 1953, the worst tornado in Texas history struck downtown Waco, killing 114 and injuring hundreds. It caused millions of dollars in damage and dented Waco's economy for years after. Downtown Waco is home to the ALICO Building, which was completed in 1910, and was once the tallest structure in the Southwest. Downtown Waco, where Dr Pepper soda was invented, is also the location of the famous Dr Pepper Museum.
A scenic riverwalk along the east and west banks of the Brazos River stretches from the Baylor campus to Cameron Park Zoo, about seven miles in all. This multiuse walking and jogging, lighted trail passes underneath the Waco Suspension Bridge and captures the peaceful charm of the river.
Waco Independent School District serves most of the city of Waco. Portions of the city also lie in the boundaries of Midway Independent School District, Bosqueville ISD, China Spring ISD, Connally ISD, and La Vega ISD. Three large public high schools are in the Waco city limits: Waco High School (Waco ISD), University High School (Waco ISD), and Midway High School (Midway ISD). The schools are all rivals in sports, academics, and pride. Former high schools in Waco ISD were A.J. Moore High School, G.W. Carver High School, Richfield High School, Jefferson-Moore High School, and a magnet school known as A.J. Moore Academy.
Charter high schools in Waco include Harmony Science Academy, Methodist Children's Home, Premier High School of Waco, Rapoport Academy Public School, and Waco Charter School (EOAC). Local private and parochial schools include Live Oak Classical School, Parkview Christian Academy, Reicher Catholic High School, Texas Christian Academy, and Vanguard College Preparatory School.
The three institutions of higher learning in Waco are:
In the past, several other higher education institutions were located in Waco:
- A&M College
- AddRan Male & Female College (relocated to Fort Worth, now Texas Christian University)
- The Catholic College
- Central Texas College (HBCU)
- The Gurley School
- The Independent Biblical and Industrial School
- Paul Quinn College (HBCU) (relocated to Dallas)
- Provident Sanatarium
- Toby's Practical Business College
- The Training School
- Waco Business College
The Waco radio market is the 200th-largest radio market in the US and includes:
- KRMX-FM 92.9 (Country)
- KBCT-FM 94.5 (News talk)
- KBGO-FM 95.7 (Oldies)
- KWRA-FM 96.7 (Spanish)
- KWTX-FM 97.5 (Pop)
- WACO-FM 99.9 (Country)
- KXZY-FM 100.7 (Spanish religious)
- KBRQ-FM 102.5 (Rock)
- KWBU-FM 103.3 (NPR/Baylor University)
- KWOW-FM 104.1 (Spanish)
- KWBT-FM 104.9 (Urban/Hip-Hop)
- KDRW-FM 106.7 (Country)
- KWPW-FM 107.9 (Pop)
- KBBW-AM 1010 (Religious/Talk Radio)
- KWTX-AM 1230 (News talk)
- KRZI-AM 1660 (ESPN)
Interstate 35 is the major north-south highway for Waco. It directly connects the city with Dallas (I-35E), Fort Worth (I-35W), Austin, and San Antonio. Texas State Highway 6 runs northwest-southeast and connects Waco to Bryan/College Station and Houston. US Highway 84 is the major east-west thoroughfare in the area. It is also known as Waco Drive, Bellmead Drive (as it passes through the city of Bellmead), Woodway Drive or the George W. Bush Parkway. Loop 340 bypasses the city to the east and south. State Highway 31 splits off of US 84 just east of Waco and connects the city to Tyler, Longview, and Shreveport, Louisiana.
The Waco area is home to three airports. Waco Regional Airport (ACT) serves the city with daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth International via American Eagle. TSTC Waco Airport (CNW) is the site of the former James Connally AFB and was the primary fly-in point for former President George W. Bush when he was visiting his ranch in Crawford. It is also a hub airport for L3 and several other aviation companies. McGregor Executive Airport (PWG) is a general-aviation facility located west of Waco.
Local transportation is provided by the Waco Transit System, which offers bus service Monday-Saturday to most of the city. Multiple taxicab companies operate in the city. Nearby passenger train service is offered via Amtrak. The Texas Eagle route includes daily stops in McGregor, located 20 miles west of the city.
Major Waco attractions include:
- Armstrong Browning Library
- Cameron Park
- Cameron Park Zoo
- Dr Pepper Museum
- Grand Lodge of Texas
- Hawaiian Falls Waterpark
- Lake Waco
- Lee Lockwood Library and Museum
- Mayborn Museum Complex
- Red Men Museum and Library
- Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
- Texas Sports Hall of Fame
- Texas State Technical College System
- Waco Mammoth National Monument
- Waco Suspension Bridge
Previous professional sports franchises in Waco have proven unsuccessful. The Waco Marshals of the National Indoor Football League lasted less than two months amidst a midseason ownership change in 2004. (The team became the beleaguered Cincinnati Marshals the following year.) The Waco Wizards of the now-defunct Western Professional Hockey League fared better, lasting into a fourth season before folding in 2000. Both teams played at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum, one of Waco's largest entertainment and sports venues.
The Southern Indoor Football League announced that Waco was an expansion market for the 2010 season. It was rumored that they would play in the Heart O' Texas Coliseum. However, the league broke up into three separate leagues, and subsequently a team did not come to Waco in any of the new leagues.
Professional baseball first came to Waco in 1889 with the formation of the Waco Tigers, a member of the Texas League. The Tigers were renamed the Navigators in 1905, and later the Steers. In 1920, the team was sold to Wichita Falls. In 1923, a new franchise called the Indians was formed and became a member of the Class D Texas Association. In 1925, Waco rejoined the Texas League with the formation of the Waco Cubs.
On June 20, 1930, the first night game in Texas League history was played at Katy Park in Waco. The lights were donated by Waco resident Charles Redding Turner, who owned a local farm team for recruits to the Chicago Cubs.
On the night of August 6, 1930, baseball history was made at Katy Park: in the eighth inning of a night game against Beaumont, Waco left fielder Gene Rye became the only player in the history of professional baseball to hit three home runs in one inning.
The last year Waco had a team in the Texas League was 1930, but fielded some strong semipro teams in the 1930s and early 1940s. During the World War II years of 1943–45, the powerful Waco Army Air Field team was probably the best in the state; many major leaguers played for the team, and it was managed by big-league catcher Birdie Tebbetts.
In 1947, the Class B Big State League was organized with Waco as a member called the Waco Dons.
In 1948, A.H. Kirksey, owner of Katy Park, persuaded the Pittsburgh Pirates club to take over the Waco operation, and the nickname was changed to Pirates. The Pirates vaulted into third place in 1948. They dropped a notch to fourth in 1949, but prevailed in the playoffs to win the league championship. The Pirates then tumbled into the second division, bottoming out with a dreadful 29-118, 0.197 club in 1952. This mark ranks as one of the 10 worst marks of any 20th-century full-season team. When the tornado struck in 1953, it destroyed the park. The team relocated to Longview to finish the season and finished a respectable third with a 77-68 record.
- Lee Ballanfant, born in Waco, was a Major League Baseball umpire
- Kwame Cavil, born in Waco, is a Canadian Football League wide receiver for the Edmonton Eskimos.
- Perrish Cox, NFL cornerback for the Tennessee Titans, was born in Waco, grew up in Waco, and went to University High School.
- Zach Duke, graduated from Midway High School in Waco, is a major league baseball pitcher for the Saint Louis Cardinals.
- Dave Eichelberger, born in Waco, is a professional golfer who has won several tournaments on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour levels.
- Casey Fossum, graduated from Midway High School in Waco, is a Major League Baseball player for the New York Mets.
- Ken Grandberry, born in Waco, is a former NFL running back for the Chicago Bears.
- Rufus Granderson, born in Waco, is a former AFL defensive tackle for the Dallas Texans.
- Ty Harrington is the head coach for the Texas State University baseball team. He was born in Waco and attended Midway High School.
- Andy Hawkins, born in Waco, is a former MLB pitcher.
- Sherrill Headrick, born in Waco, came to the American Football League's Dallas Texans as an undrafted linebacker.
- Michael Johnson, United States sprinter; graduated from Baylor University in 1990.
- Jim Jones, born in Waco, American football player.
- Rob Powell, fitness coach who has two certificates of Guinness World Records.
- Dominic Rhodes, born in Waco, is a professional football running back who currently plays for the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League.
- LaDainian Tomlinson is a former NFL football player for the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers; born in Rosebud, he grew up in Waco, and went to University High School.
Pro baseball players from Waco
- Kevin Belcher 8/8/1967 CF-RF MLB 1990–1990
- Lance Berkman 2/10/1976 LF-RF MLB 1999–2011
- Buzz Dozier 8/31/1927 P MLB 1947–1949
- Louis Drucke 12/3/1888 P MLB 1909–1912
- Boob Fowler 11/11/1900 SS MLB 1923–1926
- Charlie Gorin 2/6/1928 P MLB 1954–1955
- Donald Harris 11/12/1967 CF-RF MLB 1991–1993
- Al Jackson 12/25/1935 P MLB 1959–1969
- Scott Jordan 5/27/1963 CF MLB 1988–1988
- Rudy Law 10/7/1956 OF MLB 1978–1986
- Ted Lyons graduated from Baylor, P MLB Chicago White Sox 1923–1946
- Dutch Meyer 10/6/1915 2B MLB 1940–1946
- Arthur Rhodes 10/24/1969 P MLB 1991–2011
- Schoolboy Rowe 1/11/1910 P MLB 1933–1949
- Ted Wilborn 12/16/1958 OF MLB 1979–1980
Movies and television
- Jules Bledsoe, stage and screen actor and singer. When the Broadway premiere of Show Boat was delayed in 1927 by Ziegfeld, Paul Robeson became unavailable, so Bledsoe stepped in. He played and sang the role of Joe, introducing "Ol' Man River".
- James Brown, film and television star, appeared as Lieutenant Ripley "Rip" Masters in 166 episodes of ABC's The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (1954–1959) and later as detective Harry McSween on CBS's Dallas.
- Shannon Elizabeth, actress of American Pie fame, was born in Houston and grew up in Waco.
- Chip and Joanna Gaines, live and host the HGTV series Fixer Upper in Waco.
- Peri Gilpin, actress, best known for her television character Roz Doyle on the series Frasier, was born in Waco and raised in Dallas.
- Texas Guinan, Hollywood actress from 1917 to 1933. She was active in vaudeville and theater, and was in many movies (often as the gun-toting hero in silent westerns, more than a match for any man). She also had a successful career as a hostess in nightclubs and speakeasies in New York City.
- Anne Gwynne, Hollywood actress who starred in a number of films of the 1940s; she was born in Waco.
- Thomas Harris, author of The Silence of the Lambs, was a student at Baylor University, and covered the police beat for the Waco Tribune-Herald.
- Jennifer Love Hewitt, actress, was born in Waco.
- Terrence Malick, director of The Thin Red Line, was raised in Waco. He also directed The Tree of Life, which was set in the town of Waco in the 1950s.
- Steve Martin, comedian, actor, author and musician, was born in Waco; his family moved to California when he was around six years old.
- Kevin Reynolds, director (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Count of Monte Cristo, Waterworld), born and raised in Waco.
- David Crowder Band (1996–2012), a Christian worship band, is from Waco.
- Wade Bowen, Texas country artist and former lead singer of Wade Bowen and West 84, was born and raised in Waco.
- Pat Green, Country music singer-songwriter, was raised in Waco and his parents still reside there.
- Roy Hargrove, a Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter, was born and raised in Waco.
- Hi-Five, a successful R&B group who had hits in the 1990s including "I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)", is from Waco.
- Kari Jobe, a two-time Dove Award-winning Christian singer-songwriter was born in Waco and was raised in Watauga and Hurst, Texas.
- Willie Nelson, country music singer-songwriter, was born in nearby Abbott and attended Baylor University for one year.
- Ted Nugent, guitarist, along with his wife Shemane and son Rocco Nugent, live in Waco. He filmed his VH1 show Surviving Nugent on his ranch in nearby China Spring.
- Domingo Ortiz, percussionist for the band Widespread Panic, grew up in Waco.
- Bill Payne, keyboardist for the rock band Little Feat, was born and raised in the Waco area.
- Billy Joe Shaver, Country songwriter ("Honky Tonk Heroes") and singer ("Old Chunk of Coal"), lives in Waco.
- Ashlee Simpson, pop music singer, was born in Waco and raised in Dallas.
- Jessica Simpson, pop music singer, was born in Abilene and raised in Waco and Dallas.
- Strange Fruit Project, an underground hip hop trio, is from Waco.
- Hank Thompson, was born in Waco and is a Country music singer who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
- Mercy Dee Walton was born in Waco.
- Holly Tucker was born in Waco.
- Joe Barton, US congressman representing Texas's 6th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, was born and reared in Waco.
- Roy Bass, a Waco native, served as mayor of Lubbock (1974–1978).
- Russell B. Cummings, member of the Texas House of Representatives from Harris County, 1963–1967; retired to Waco.
- Kent Grusendorf, former state representative from Arlington, is originally from Waco.
- Leon Jaworski, who prosecuted Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg trials and then was the special prosecutor who brought down the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal, was born and raised in Waco.
- Charles R. Matthews, former mayor of Garland, Texas, member of the Texas Railroad Commission, and chancellor of the Texas State University System, is a Waco native.
- Ann Richards, former governor of Texas and keynote speaker at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, was born in the Waco suburb of Lacy-Lakeview and graduated from Baylor University.
- Ralph Sheffield, member of the Texas House of Representatives from Bell County and restaurateur in Temple, was born in Waco in 1955.
- David McAdams Sibley, Sr., former state senator (1991–2002), was mayor of Waco (1987–1988).
- T. Berry Brazelton, born in Waco, is a pediatrician and author. He developed the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale.
- Brigham Paul Doane, born in Waco, is a professional wrestler. Under the ring name "Masada", Doane achieved international recognition in the Hardcore wrestling scene.
- Hallie Earle (1880–1963) was the first licensed female physician in Waco, a 1902 M.S. from Baylor, and the only female graduate of 1907 Baylor University Medical School in Dallas.
- Frank Shelby Groner (1877–1943) pastor of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church.
- Heloise, of the "Hints from Heloise" column, was born in Waco. Her column addresses lifestyle hints, including consumer issues, pets, travel, food, home improvement, health, and much more.
- Robert W. McCollum (1925–2010), virologist who made important discoveries regarding polio and hepatitis.
- Robert L. Leuschner Jr. was born in Waco. He attended Rice University, followed a career in the U.S. Navy and retired as a Rear Admiral.
- Glenn McGee, born in Waco, is a bioethicist, syndicated columnist for Hearst Newspapers and for The Scientist and scholar.
- Doris (Dorie) Miller, born in Waco, was an African American cook in the United States Navy and a hero during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was the first African American to be awarded the Navy's second-highest honor, the Navy Cross. Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed Miller in the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor.
- C. Wright Mills, born in Waco, was a sociologist. Among other topics, he was concerned with the responsibilities of intellectuals in post-World War II society, and advocated relevance and engagement over disinterested academic observation.
- W. Winfred Moore, a Baptist clergyman, lived in Waco during the 1990s, while he was a visiting distinguished professor of religion and director of the Center for Ministry Effectiveness at Baylor.
- Felix Huston Robertson, born in Washington-on-the-Brazos, was a former Confederate Civil War general who became a wealthy lawyer, railroad director, and land speculator in Waco during Reconstruction.
- Ford O. Rogers, born in Waco, Major General in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, recipient of the Navy Cross
- John Willingham, a writer and historian born in Waco, served as McLennan County elections administrator from 1984 through 1992.
- Robert Wilson, born in Waco, is a stage director.