Harm Bates Williams was born in Houston on March 3, 1904, but moved to Texas City when he was seven years old. As a young man, he worked a variety of jobs in the young community. Williams gained national recognition in 1929 when he accepted a dare from friends to roll a hoop from Texas City to New York City (Williams, Unpublished, p.2). During the late 1920s and early 1930s, many Americans tried to set new records and earn a place in record books. Sometimes this was a way to earn money during the tough times of the Great Depression; sometimes it was simply a unique form of entertainment and a way to gain recognition for a person, group or community.
Hoopie Williams at Age 25
Hoopie Williams shows off his hoop Irma
Roll to New York City
After accepting the dare, Harm became known as Hoopie Williams in honor of his quest. On Wednesday, July 31, 1929, Hoopie rolled his hoop down the steps of the City Hall building in Texas City to begin his 2,400-mile trip to New York City. Funded in part by local businessmen, family and friends, Hoopie also sold photographs of himself and did odd jobs along the way to pay for his journey. News media all over the country followed the progress of Hoopie and his hoop, nicknamed Irma.
Arrival in New York City
On January 31, 1930, they reached New York City. Hoopie had lost 15 pounds and worn out nine heels and seven soles (Freeman, My, p. 1). Irma was two inches smaller than when she had left Texas City. But they made the record books and generated national publicity for Texas City. Shortly after his return from New York City, Hoopie Williams moved to Houston (Freeman, Unpublished, p.3). He died there at the age of 45, still holding the world record for hoop rolling.