A Texas farm boy, James Earl Rudder became internationally famous as a D-Day hero. A deeply conservative man who lacked the proper academic credentials, he nevertheless ruled as president of Texas A&M when the tradition-bound school underwent sweeping reforms. Under Rudder, A&M changed its name, desegregated, admitted women for the first time, and ended the requirement that students serve in its paramilitary "Corps of Cadets." The passage describes the anti-intellectual and often crude atmosphere that prevailed at the campus when Rudder assumed the office of college president in 1959.
When President Earl Rudder opened discussion on admitting women to Texas A&M University in 1963, he confronted a macho subculture that had prevailed over the school for its century-long history. Similar efforts had destroyed previous A&M administrations. As Rudder undoubtedly knew, Aggie traditions are often not only durable, but intractable. Yet, Rudder brought to the job military credentials Aggies respected and a flexible enough mind to sense changes in the larger culture and respond accordingly. No president wrought so many changes on the Aggie campus, yet Rudder remains one of the most revered figures in the campus’ crowded pantheon.
Much of A&M’s masculine identity derives from its origins as a land grant college and the unique role played by the paramilitary Corps of Cadets, who from the beginning formed the heart of the student body. Even in its earliest days, A&M was unique in the sense of identity it created among students and their parents. “One of the things which makes Texas A&M College so great is the keen interest taken in it by its students and ex-students,” Rudder would note on Aggie “Muster Day” in 1956. “Aggies, in school and out, love A&M enough to defend it in every way possible. I have never known any Aggie to show any apathy or lethargy in any matter connected with Texas A&M College.”
When Rudder won appointment as president of Texas A&M College in 1959, however, the school’s future was in question. A&M’s Board of Directors gave Rudder a mandate to enhance the school’s influence, visibility, and academic image. In one of the many ironies of his college presidency, this military man would achieve his mission at A&M by reversing the policies of his predecessor and fellow soldier, Lawrence Sullivan ”Sul” Ross, through a reduction of the Corps’ influence on campus life.
Rudder embarked on a reform crusade because the College Station mentality had become a threat to the school’s future, depressing enrollment, increasing dropouts and tarnishing the school’s image as a serious institution of higher education. A conservative, Rudder would be the man who would institute the most radical reforms in campus history, changing the school’s name, dropping the requirement that students belong to the Cadet Corps, admitting coeds, and racially integrating the campus. Not only did Rudder survive these reform efforts, he thrived, and after his death he would join Sul Ross as one of two A&M presidents immortalized in sculpture on the campus grounds.
The oldest public institution of higher learning in Texas, A&M was established in 1862 under the terms of Morrill Land-Grant College Act, which mandated that schools established under the program "teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts." The Agricultural and Military College of Texas opened on October 4, 1876. The Legislature directed that the school be built near the isolated, rural South Central Texas hamlet of Bryan, where the new town of College Station would rise to accommodate the school.
With 106 students and a faculty of six, A&M began as an all-male military institution requiring all students to participate in the Corps of Cadets. A&M was not a service academy like West Point, though many cadets went on to heroic and distinguished military careers. A&M’s creators believed that the drill and regimentation required by the Corps also provided the discipline needed for a successful civilian career.
The resulting intense sense of community may have been enhanced when, the year of its opening in 1876, the new state constitution specified that the Agricultural and Mechanical College was to be a branch of a proposed University of Texas, even though the University of Texas would not open for six years. This secondary status firmly placed a chip on the collective shoulders of Aggies for much of the twentieth century, an attitude captured in the way Aggies still refer to Texas as “tu,” emphatically in lower case, to stand for “the university.”
A&M’s origins as a land grant college placed the school in a curricular straitjacket. The Legislature intended the school to train the industrial class and to provide knowledge of modern agricultural techniques for the upcoming generation of farmers. A&M was seen as a seat of practical knowledge, while the esoteric arts of philosophy, literature, history, and mastery of dead classical languages were best left to the private schools attended by elite children. A shortage of textbooks on agriculture and engineering, however, persuaded the school’s first faculty to teach a traditional liberal arts program. This drew the anger of the Grange, the first of a series of agricultural movements to rock Texas politics in the late 19th century. The Grange, which embraced land grant colleges as a means of improving the lives of farmers through exposure to modern technology and cultivation techniques, protested that A&M College was not living up to its charter.
Oran M. Roberts, a reactionary Democrat who had staved off a challenge from the agrarian Greenback Party to win the 1878 gubernatorial race, declared that A&M’s top mission should be to teach students how “to produce two ears of wheat and corn and two bales of cotton by the same labor and capital that have been heretofore producing but one.” A&M students didn’t need literature and science, Roberts proclaimed because effetes interested in such abstractions “are seldom found to spend their lives between the plow handles or in the workshops.” The Board of Directors, the administration body of the college, fired A&M’s first president, Thomas Sanford Gathright, and the entire nine-person faculty and informed students that they could major in agriculture or engineering, the two options implied in the school’s name.
Such a curriculum guaranteed the campus’ male-dominated atmosphere for the next century. “Few women attended college, fewer still pursued instruction in the then ‘unfeminine’ fields of farming and engineering.” campus historian Henry C. Dethloff noted. Regardless, the heavy emphasis on agronomy and practical science narrowed the college’s horizons from the beginning.
As longtime Texas political journalist Paul Burka notes, the next year, Governor Roberts proclaimed his support for building of “a university of the first class,” by which he meant the University of Texas. For the next seven decades UT would become the center of law, science and the liberal arts, while A&M remained a backwards, forgotten little sibling, relying on tradition and the spirit created by the Corps rather than academic excellence.
Already in the 1880s, politicians in Austin spoke of closing A&M and converting it into an insane asylum. A&M escaped this fate, though, through the appointment of former Confederate Army hero Lawrence Sullivan Ross, appointed A&M’s president 1890 while he still occupied the governor’s mansion. Ross’ war record and previous service as governor proved effective lobbying assets. Legislators for a time stopped talking about closing the university or consolidating it with the University of Texas. Ross had a vision for the college, where he believed military training should be of “transcendental importance.” As Paul Burka writes, “A&M had found its calling. Education, even agricultural education, was relegated to secondary status.” At A&M, “’College spirit’ and indoctrination surpassed and even began to smother academic interests,” Dethloff observed.
This created an unflattering stereotype of A&M students in the form of Aggie jokes. Largely the students and alumni of the University of Texas instigated this onslaught of ridicule. “Why did the Aggie tip-toe past the medicine chest?” “So he wouldn’t wake up the sleeping pills.” “What is an Aggie doing when he holds his hands tightly over his ears?” He’s trying to hold on to a thought.” “How did the Aggie try to kill the bird?” “He threw it off the cliff.” Not just the students, but A&M College itself became the butt of jokes. “Did you hear the one about the Aggie library? They had to close it when someone checked out the book. But he returned it, so they reopened the library. Then they had to close it down again when they found out he had already colored it in.”
Aggies, however, took the jokes as a sign of distinction. In the popular stereotype, of the Aggie, “[h]e was loyal, dedicated and determined, so much so that at times, he appeared bull-headed, immature, and irrational . . .” Dethloff explains. Such barbs, Dethloff argues, became a form of “ethnic humor” which gave students and alumni an even stronger sense of common identity, even as it made the campus community more resistant to outside influence.
Aggies’ sense of being a tribe apart only mounted as the outside world witnessed the rise of women in politics, culminating in the ratification of the women's suffrage amendment over strenuous objections from Texas males in 1920. Men already emasculated by the rise of capitalist market forces in the early twentieth century. Increasingly in Texas from 1900 to the 1920s, men left the farms to an uncertain urban environment where, instead of living off of the produce of their own labor they depended on the wages granted by richer and more powerful bosses. Such an employee-employer relationship contradicted the very definition of independent manhood that dominated rural culture in the 19th century.
In this cultural and political landscape, A&M represented a manly safe haven, a place where “Cadets lived together, drilled together, went classes together, even danced together. (At campus sponsored stag dances, ‘girls’ were identified by a handkerchief tied around a cadet’s arm.) The Corps was an all-inclusive fraternity, its rituals became traditions, its traditions sacrosanct.” This herd of sacred cow traditions, combined with military regimentation, shaped many heroic military careers. Aggie culture also created a hothouse environment that made aggression and violence an almost inevitable part of campus life.
A&M quickly acquired a “Wild West” reputation. The Galveston News, consistently unfriendly to the campus in the 1880s, reported that A&M represented a den of iniquity where faculty “drank liquor and played cards.” Faculty members complained about students burning outhouses, frequenting local whorehouses, drinking in student housing and practicing brutal hazing rituals. A former state senator wrote that he would sooner give his son “a pony, six shooter, bottle of whiskey and deck of cards . . . as to send him to the A&MC.”
Hazing of freshman, or “fish” as they are known in A&M parlance, had already been institutionalized. The persecution of fish by upperclassmen included forcing freshmen to buy passes to non-existent campus buildings, making them to stand guard over the campus flagpole all night, and sending them on pointless missions such as entering the Corps Commandant’s Office to get a “bucket of reveille” (Reveille was the college’s canine mascot.) A freshmen eating at the campus dining hall might be stopped by an upperclassman, who would insist that the younger student answer some trivia question on Texas history or concerning A&M lore. Someone failing to answer correctly would be denied the privilege of desert. If stopped elsewhere on campus, fish might be made to polish an upperclassman’s boots or some other act of abasement.
Because of a shortage of student housing, more than 100 students lived in 36 tents during the fall and spring terms of 1907 and 1908. Other students lived in primitive dormitories still heated by wooden stoves. The college’s physician, among others, called attention to the unsanitary, unhealthy, and inadequate bathing facilities on campus centered at the unheated aging natatorium. These conditions, coupling with hazing, contributed to the Cadet campus strike in 1908.
A&M life was dominated by class struggle, but rather than a face-off between capitalists and labor, this contest featured upper and lower classmen locked in hazing rituals that established comforting, predictable hierarchies. The common experience of moving from harassed fish to hazing sophomore produced a sense of belonging, and A&M students took this coming-of-age ritual very seriously. The Corps promoted an intense sense of belonging that made the Cadets hard to divide and conquer when they felt threatened by change. Thus in 1908, students tightly united against they saw as the high-handed and authoritarian actions of President Henry Hill Harrington.
The son-in-law of revered late A&M President Sul Ross, Harrington clashed with the cadets when one severe rash of hazing provoked the president to dress down the entire sophomore class. In an assembly, he called the students “cowards” and “sneaks” for their acts of physical abuse. “Harrington . . . thoroughly offended the class, who, from their point of view, believed they were only doing what others had done unto them, and were carrying on a custom of the school.”
In February 1908, the cadets signed a petition requesting the A&M board of directors to fire Harrington. The board not only ignored the petition, but also passed a resolution exonerating Harrington of any wrongdoing and pledging the board’s continued support. Angrily the Cadet Corps boycotted classes and refused to line up for formation. A tiny fraction of the 580 enrolled students remained on campus by late February. Harrington proved unable to resolve his differences with students, and with the faculty, which objected to his authoritarian administrative style. Isolated, Harrington resigned, effective September 1, 1908.
The 1908 strike confirmed for A&M critics their image of the school as out of control and renewed cries for the campus to be closed or made part of the University of Texas. None of these controversies enhanced A&M’s academic reputation. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching inspected the school not long after the Harrington era and snidely comment in a report that ”It is a display of great leniency to term the Agricultural and Mechanical of Texas an institution of higher education at all.”
A&M again faced possible extinction at the hands of an angry Legislature after an upsurge in hazing, which intensified between 1910 and 1913. One freshman in 1910 awoke next to burning sulphur left by upperclassman and suffered serious burns. A&M parent wrote furious letters regarding the practice of “strapping,” which involved the use by upperclassmen of a belt or a wooden paddle on the backside of unfortunate fish. The practice, which dated back to the school’s earliest days, provoked an angry response from Texas Governor Oscar B. Colquitt in 1912, who had received numerous letters from concerned parents.
We do not object to boys having small pranks played on them, but when it comes to the boys being stripped of their clothing, and thrown across a bed and whipped on their bear rump and thighs with a leather strap, we think it is time to call a halt.
A still-pathetic housing situation, which placed 500 cadets in 241 canvas tents on campus, probably stoked tensions at A&M, where the incoming fish turned out to be particularly rebellious. Freshmen refused orders to take down their painting of the “Class of 1916” from the campus water tank or to get a Christmas tree for the upperclassmen as they had always been required. In response, upperclassmen strapped every freshman just before or after the Christmas break. This happened in the same year that a hazed University of Texas student had responded to harassment by fatally shooting his tormentor.
The Texas Legislature passed a resolution condemning hazing and held a hearing on the A&M strapping incident. To prevent more sanctions from Austin, the full A&M faculty approved the immediate expulsion of 27 students. As in 1908, students went on strike, but this time the administration stood firm and expelled another 466 students for insubordination. In response, the Legislature passed a bill that made hazing a misdemeanor punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. Campus President Robert T. Milner, like Harrington, was forced to quit the presidency.
Such turmoil did little to improve the image of the college and may have contributed to its relative neglect by the Texas Legislature. In 1923, when oil was discovered on the University of Texas’ public lands, A&M received only one-third of the revenues, while UT received the other two-thirds. A&M no longer had to scramble for funds for mere survival, but it lacked the resources to compete as a top-tier or even second tier institution.
In the mid-1940s, Gibb Gilchrist became the latest campus president to tangle with Cadet culture by attempting reforms. Gilchrist achieved a statewide reputation as Texas Highway Engineer, a post from which he oversaw the state's highway development program in the late 1920s through the late 1930s. In 1937, the A&M Board of Directors appointed Gilchrist dean of engineering, where in his first year he established a Department of Aeronautical Engineering. Gilchrist rose to the A&M presidency May 25, 1944.
One of Gilchrist’s most enduring achievements came with the establishment of the Texas A&M Research Foundation, established in November 1944. Headed by 50 prominent and influential men, many of whom were A&M alumni, the foundation funneled corporate and individual donations into scientific and technical research eventually encompassing oceanography, medicine, meteorology, space travel, and nuclear power. In September 1944 Gilchrist had announced his vision for A&M. The school, he said, should focus its engineering and agricultural research and teaching programs on the development of Texas’ natural resources.
Secondly, Gilchrist wanted to establish community technical training centers across the state. These recommendations aimed at increasing the university’s visibility through providing more direct service to Texas farmers and through outreach to distant communities. “While Gilchrist offered a ‘New Vision at A&M,’ the vision was distinctly framed by the old agricultural and engineering precepts,” Dethloff wrote. “There would be no revolution, but there would be greater efficiency.”
Neither objectives addressed the main difficulties undermining A&M’s credibility: its narrow curriculum and the low quality of its faculty. In 1924, a school of arts and sciences had been established, but the vestigial program provided students only two broad classes, one in “liberal arts” and another in “sciences.” School officials in 1937 had failed to earn accreditation for the chemical engineering department. Only 17 percent of the faculty held Ph.D.’s by 1946, and the college did not require that its professors conduct research.
The end of World War II, however, forced dramatic changes on the A&M campus. The end of the war brought a flood of military veterans enrolling at the college in a bid to improve their economic futures. A&M experienced a common phenomenon of the late 1940s. College doors flung open for veterans in large part because of the so-called GI Bill, which passed in 1944 to assistant veterans’ readjustment to civilian life. Under the act, veterans enjoyed increased access to business loans, were given preference in hiring and, most important for A&M, were also provided educational benefits. Under Title 2 of the original GI Bill, veterans under age 25 at the time they signed up for the military who served 90 days or more received a year of college or vocational training at government expense. Veterans who served a two-year stint earned credit for three years of college. The government paid tuition to the college of the veteran’s choice and gave former servicemen who were single $50 for monthly subsistence and married veterans $75.
Colleges previously had drawn their student bodies from the ranks of mostly male, unmarried 18- to 22-year-olds fresh out of high school, but these new post-war collegiates were unmistakably adult. Older, more likely to be married, and often having experienced the life-and-death exigencies of combat, returning veterans sought different experiences from their younger peers. “For the returning soldier, classroom offerings were often inappropriate; worse still, in loco parentis rules designating dating customs, hours outside dormitories, or dress codes seemed onerous or silly,” wrote histories James Gilbert. “As a result, many schools offered revised curriculum offerings and eliminated some of the more restrictive social codes.”
This task proved more delicate at A&M, which had to decide whether returning war veterans would have to be submitted to the discipline of younger upperclassmen in the Cadet Corps. Wartime A&M enrollment hit bottom at about 2,000 between 1943-45, but in September 1946, 8,200 students registered for classes. This created a desperate housing shortage, especially for married students, an almost non-existent demographic before the war. Trailers and temporary family homes were purchased to handle the overflow. The school in 1946 obtained use of nearby Bryan Airfield and used the facilities for dormitories and classrooms. The Bryan annex became housing for incoming freshman by 1947. Freshmen continued to live at the air base until 1950 when a drop in enrollment and expansion of housing on campus allowed the entire student body again to reside on A&M’s grounds.
This complex series of events forced several adaptations of Aggie traditions. The placement of freshmen off campus severely limited opportunities to haze fish. With a large percentage of the student body having already served as professional soldiers, the school’s Board of Directors exempted these students from the requirement of belonging to the Corps. Many veterans were trying to get away from all things military, anyway, and refused to wear the Cadet uniform, something previously required of non-military students. Cadet seniors also found themselves unable to issue orders to older underclassmen veterans more experienced than their supposed superiors.
”The veterans simply would not hear of a young kid in uniform telling them what to do,” Dethloff wrote. New campus regulations meant that all students who were veterans in active duty for at least 12 months were exempt from having to wear the cadet uniform. A new position, the Dean of Men, was created to serve and supervise civilian students, while the campus’ professor of military science and tactics supervised the Cadets only.
Incoming freshmen under the age of 21, however, who had not served in the military still faced a requirement of years of military science and membership in the Corps of Cadets, where rituals of harassment still stood as sacred. With most forms of hazing banned by state law, Gilchrist now sought to reorganize discipline policies and wipe out this troublesome tradition, which was blamed for a 48 percent dropout rate after one semester among freshmen.
Billy Clayton of Spring Lake, later to be speaker of the Texas House, remembered how tough life as a fish was in the late 1940s. “. . .[I]n those days, nobody ever forgot their freshman year, because hazing was pretty rampant,” Clayton recalled in a 2004 interview. Like many cadets of this generation, Clayton defended the hazing tradition, but also revealed deeply mixed feelings about the practice. “ . . . [In] your freshman year . . . you really learn the discipline of how to present yourself to people and how to accept them,” he said. “You felt humbled. You walked in the street, the upper classmen walked on the sidewalk. You rushed up to meet everybody that you didn’t know and you were expected to remember them . . . It was the great camaraderie, but your freshman year really gave you that grounding.”
Nevertheless, Clayton vividly recalls his brutal year as a fish. “I remember having to go to the shower and soap my shorts off a bit . . . . they just bust you so much it’ll make you bleed,” he said. “But, you know, I wouldn’t take anything for it . . . It was a experience I probably wouldn’t want anybody else to go through but I wouldn’t take anything for mine.”
The college’s Board of Directors instituted new rules that forbade upperclassmen from ordering fish to provide room service or to run personal errands. Corporal punishment through paddles or other instruments was also banned, as were extra drills unless approved by college administrators. The new rules, The Articles of the Corps, were read to cadets in a meeting held on January 11, 1947. This was the third time the campus officially banned hazing, yet Cadets reacted with surprising anger, tearing up the regulations or pointedly leaving the manuals in their seats.
The next night the entire 2,100-member Cadet Corps staged a march on the president’s house. “[T]he upper classmen organized all of us and we marched and hung him [Gilchrist] in effigy .. .,” Clayton said. Reportedly 200 commissioned and non-commissioned officers turned in their resignations to Gilchrist, who greeted the protestors in a bathrobe and pajamas. The Cadets told the president that they would not rejoin the Corps unless the new regulations were repealed. Gilchrist stunned the crowd when he simply replied, “I accept [your resignations] with regret.”
Public support for the most part rallied behind Gilchrist. “Schoolboy soldiers who cannot grasp the first principle of soldiering have no right to run anything – least of all the right to run A&M College,” a 1947 Dallas Morning News editorial declared. The student protests resulted in a legislative investigation of Gilchrist's administration during the spring of 1947. A coalition of unhappy faculty members, students, alumni and parents kept the heat on Gilchrist by raising charges of financial improprieties against him. Opponents asked why $200,000 had been appropriated for a laboratory equipped with classrooms that had never been built, questioned the price paid by the university for land along the Brazos River, critiqued profits made at the Exchange store, complained about the $100,000 spent on a wind tunnel that they said had never been used, asked why the administration had rented Bryan Air Field for freshmen housing rather than accepted an offer of the base as a gift, and wondered why A&M still lacked a tenure system for faculty.
Legislative hearings, involving hundreds of witnesses and 2,000 pages of testimony, aired the campus’ dirty laundry in April and May of 1947. The investigating committee concluded that charges of incompetence against Gilchrist were unfounded and that no university funds had been misappropriated or misspent by the administration. The committee determined that Gilchrist’s attempts to comply with state laws regarding hazing lay at the heart of the controversy and that campus outsiders and disgruntled employees had seized on the issue to topple the school administration.
A minority report essentially agreed with the majority report but chided Gilchrist for his failure to command respect from the students. If the investigating committee officially exonerated Gilchrist, the president nevertheless had suffered a mortal political wound. The Board of Directors kicked Gilchrist upstairs in May 1948 by establishing the Texas A&M College System (now the Texas A&M University System) and September 1, 1948 naming Gilchrist as its first chancellor. The Corps’ hazing traditions had toppled another administration.
Aggie conservatism had triumphed once again. To the college’s apologists, A&M’s deep resistance to change represented its most attractive feature. In the 1950s, as the United States lost its monopoly on the hydrogen bomb, as McCarthyism stirred fear of fifth column insurrection, and as the African American Civil Rights Movement challenged the South’s racial status quo, A&M represented to some a stable, safe refuge where change always took place somewhere beyond the campus gate. As one alumni, Colonel Joe E. Davis, put it:
We feel that we have something unique at Texas A&M – a program which is badly needed in these changing times in an unsettled world. Today’s children are not being reared as you and I were reared. Their entire environment is totally different. Television, atomic war stories, third dimensional movies, and comic books help to pattern their lives . . . Gone from many of our homes are the opportunities to assume the responsibility for doing small chores. Gone with those responsibilities are many of the opportunities to teach and instill obedience and honesty and a feeling of closeness and dependence within the family . . . It’s these evident gaps which we are trying to bridge in the training of our cadets; its these things which must be regained if we are to maintain our strength as the greatest of all nations.
Where some saw stability, however, others saw stagnation. Reporter Leon Hale, in a series of 1959 Houston Post articles entitled ‘Aggieland’s Ordeal” quoted faculty members who questioned whether the campus’ “strict regimen of military life is compatible with high academic achievement.” A&M had become a castle of traditional values and the drawbridge over the moat had been drawn. Legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant got this sense of A&M’s distance from the rest of the world when he first traveled with his wife to take up his job as Aggie football coach. Mary Harmon, Bryant’s wife, turned pale when she first saw the school grounds. “At first glance, Texas A&M looked like a penitentiary. No girls. No glamour. A lifeless community. I nearly died when I saw what I was getting into,” said Bryant, who would dub A&M “Sing-Sing on the Brazos.”
Already a well-respected coach, he found selling A&M to blue-chip athletes an enormous handicap. Bryant felt only frustration in his attempts to recruit hot-shot high school senior quarterback Don Meredith of Mount Pleasant, who later achieved stardom at Southern Methodist University and with the Dallas Cowboys. “Coach if you were anywhere in the world except A&M – anywhere in the world . . . ,“ Meredith told him when he turned down a scholarship offer at A&M.
It wasn’t just athletes who were no finding it hard to commit four years of their lives to the customs and traditions of Aggieland. Enrollment at the college steadily declined from 8,536 in the 1948-1949 school year to a low of 6,257 in 1954-1955. It bounced back slightly, to 7,474 in 1957-1958, but remained well below its late 1940s high. By contrast, at the other 19 state-supported colleges and universities enrollment almost doubled, growing by 92 percent between 1951 and 1961. The state enrollment growh was just over five times the rate at A&M. A subcommittee of The Texas A&M Century Council, made up of 100 leading citizens of Texas to determine the best course for A&M’s future, concluded that the school was rapidly losing it claim to be the second school in the state, after the University of Texas, to faster growing campuses such as Arlington State College (then a branch of Texas A&M but now the University of Texas at Arlington).
A&M’s decline rested on several factors: the school’s loss of monopoly on its course offerings, with an increasing number of quality vocational, agricultural and mechanical training programs being offered at other state schools; the small scope of the school’s curriculum and its designation as a “college” rather than as a university; the school’s gender segregation, which it shared only with the also-declining Texas Women’s University; A&M’s compulsory military training and Cadet Corps membership; and the poor quality of many academic programs offered. These observations were suppressed before release of the final Report of the Century Council, but they reflected widely held anxieties in the A&M community.
A sure sign that change would not bypass even A&M forever came on March 3, 1953, when state Senator William T. Moore, a 1940 Aggie graduate, introduced a resolution calling for the school to admit women. A&M had languished since World War II, Moore argued, and witnessed a decline in enrollment because of it’s male-only policies. The Senate adopted the resolution by voice vote, but a vociferous backlash, led by another Aggie, state Senator Searcy Bracewell of Houston (class of 1938), flooded the Senate with angry telegrams, letters and phone calls. Shocked, the Senate reversed the resolution two days later, by a recorded vote of 28-1. Unbowed, Moore predicted that A&M would be coeducational within a decade.
Michael Phillips is the author or co-author of the following books:
“White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001” (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006).
“The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics.” Co-Written with Patrick Cox. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010).
Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., “Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations” (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011).
Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., “The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience” (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011).
Richardson Dilworth, ed. “Cities in American Political History” (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011).
He will also be co-author of the forthcoming “The Radical Origins of the Texas Right” (edited by David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison) due to be published in 2012 by Texas A&M University Press; and “American Dreams and Reality: A Retelling of the American Story,” to be published the same year by Abigail Press.
He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of Bishop College, an African American institution originally established in Marshall, Texas, that relocated to Dallas by the 1960s before suffering bankruptcy in the 1980s. The two plan to create a website and author a book, “’God Carved in Night’: Afro-Texan Culture, Political Activism And the Rise and Fall Of Bishop College” based on this project.