The Longhorns’ Secret Weapon

Texas Cal Cheerleaders.1961

Above: UT alumnus Bill Bates (fourth from left) and the cheerleaders he recruited for the 1961 Texas vs. Cal football game in Berkeley. Oh my…

Texas Cal Helmets

The 1961 Texas Longhorns were ranked 4th nationally as they prepared for their season opener against the Cal Golden Bears. Expectations were high, but both head coaches – Mark Levy for Cal and Darrell Royal for Texas – knew very well that first games often came with surprises.

Texas fans, excited about their prospects, planned to be at California Memorial Stadium in droves. The UT alumni association chartered its first ever football excursion. A package price of just under $200 included round-trip airfare, two nights stay at a San Francisco hotel, ground transportation to Berkeley, and a ticket to the game. Also scheduled was a pre-game reception at Cal’s Alumni House. UT alumni president John Holmes was so taken by the facility, it inspired him to spearhead an effort to build an alumni center in Austin, which opened in 1965. (See: The Alumni Center Turns 50!)

1961 Cheerleaders

Above: Five of the members of the 1961 UT cheerleading team.

Notably missing from the game, however, were the Longhorn Band and Texas cheerleading squad. At the time, there simply weren’t enough funds in the athletic department’s coffers to help fly the students out to the Golden State. This meant that UT fans would be, well, leaderless, as far as cheering was concerned.

920x920Enter Bill Bates.Originally from Tyler, Texas, Bates transferred to UT for his junior and senior years, 1949-1951. An art major, he had classes with Fess Parker (who would become famous as Disney’s Davy Crockett as well as the Daniel Boone TV series), and for a time dated Cathy Grandstaff, the future Mrs. Bing Crosby. A UT cheerleader, Bates was also a artist for The Daily Texan. He would later travel the world as artist-in-residence for Royal Viking Cruise Ships, then settle in Carmel, California as a cartoonist for the local Carmel Pine Cone. Twice Bates was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He passed away in 2009, survived by his wife and daughter.

In 1961, the 31-year old Bates was just getting his start as a cartoonist for The San Francisco Examiner, and was very disappointed that the UT cheerleaders wouldn’t be present for the all important Texas vs. Cal game. What to do? What any resourceful Texas Longhorn would do, of course. Get replacements. And not some run-of-the-mill substitutes, either. Just as UT strives to be a university of the first class, Bates went looking for the best stand-in cheerleaders he could find.

365 ClubBates was a regular at Bimbo’s 365 Club (photo at left), a nationally known San Francisco nightclub. Founded in 1931 by Italian immigrant Agostino Giuntoli – nicknamed “Bimbo” by friends who had trouble pronouncing his name. (Unlike the current American slang, “bimbo” comes from the Italian “bambino,” a young boy. The nickname was fairly common.) The 365 Club was a place to see and be seen through much of the 20th century. Hollywood celebrities were frequent customers. Rita Cansino, better known as the actress Rita Hayworth, was discovered there. Now more than 80 years old, the 365 Club continues to thrive in downtown San Francisco.

In the 1960s, among its varied nightclub acts, the Club was also known for its leggy chorus line, something like the New York Rockettes. Bates spoke with Bimbo about his problem, a deal was made, and Bates hired six members of the chorus line to be substitute UT cheerleaders for a day.

The weather was perfect for the 1:30 p.m. kick-off on Saturday, September 23, 1961. Clear, sunny California skies and 70 degrees greeted the 41,500 fans at Cal Stadium. Exactly how Bates won permission to bring his cheerleading squad into the stadium isn’t known, but the girls lined up in front of the Texas fans in white, low-neck dresses and high heels, and, having practiced with Bates beforehand, began to lead the crowd in traditional UT yells.

LA Tiimes.1961 HeadlineA football game was taking place on the field, but a good many fans – and players – were more than a little distracted by the spectacle on the sidelines. “University of Texas rooters more or less disrupted the Cal – Texas football game Saturday by hiring a half dozen chorus girls from a San Francisco night club to act as cheerleaders,” reported The Los Angeles Times (photo right). “The girls, scantily clad in lowcut playsuits and wearing high heels, attracted nearly as much attention from the fans as did the football players.During the times-out and half-time ceremonies, thousands of binoculars stayed glued on the field to watch the girls,” which likely included the reporter. “At halftime a mob scene developed where the dancers were sitting as thousands of college students gathered around just to look.”

As the Longhorn offense began to take control of the game, The Dallas Morning News related, “There wasn’t much for the California partisans to cheer and they spent a good bit of the time ogling Bimbo’s sextet, even though the girls were ostensibly leading the cheering of a band of Texans who came here to root the Longhorns home.” The Austin Statesman called the group “Texas’ Twelfth Man” and Bate’s “secret weapon . . . The strategy worked fine.” United Press International (UPI) snapped a few photos and sent the story out on the news wires. National television newscasts discussed it on their nighttime broadcasts, and Sports Illustrated mentioned it in its next issue.

UPI Image.Texas Cal Cheerleaders.1961

Above: Not the best quality image (it’s from microfilm), but one of the UPI photos and cutlines sent out on newswires across the country.

Oh, and the game? The Texas Longhorns overwhelmed the Golden Bears, 28 – 3.

The Alumni Center Turns 50!

Alumni Center Dedication Program.Cover.April 1965Above: The front cover of Alumni Center dedication program for April 3, 1965.

AAS.1961.05.11.Air JauntIn September 1961, the Texas Longhorn football team was set to open its season against the Golden Bears of the University of California. The game was to be played at Cal’s Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, and to help get more orange-minded fans in the seats, the University of Texas Ex-Students’ Association chartered its first football weekend excursion. For just under $200, the package included round trip airfare from Austin to San Francisco, two nights’ accommodations in the new Jack Tar Hotel (then billed as the most modern hotel in the world – a television in every room!), ground transportation to Berkeley, and a ticket to the game.  The 80 available spots sold quickly. John Holmes, a Houston lawyer and the association’s president, was one of the first to register.

Cal Alumni House.1952 ModelThe trip also included a pre-game welcome luncheon at Cal’s Alumni House. (Photo at right is of the architectural model.) Opened seven years before, in 1954, the building was called a “house” as it was deemed a place where “alumni throughout the world can come and feel at home – at home because they are in a spot on the campus that belongs to them, was created for them, and in tribute to their accomplishments however large or small.”  Outfitted with staff offices, conference rooms, a lounge, and a kitchen, the Alumni House had become a busy and important gathering place on the campus. It also left a strong and lasting impression on John Holmes. While Texas football won the day 28 – 3, Holmes was excited about the possibility of creating an alumni house in Austin, and spent the return flight conferring on the subject with alumni Executive Director Jack Maguire.


Old Main.1910s.Postcard.2.The idea of an alumni house was the solution to a long term issue: where to place a wandering alumni association. Founded in June 1885, the Ex-Students’ Association was homeless for its first 28 years until October 1913, when the University designated room 119 in the old Main Building (left) as the “Alumni Room.” Measuring 25 x 15 feet, equipped with tables, chairs, bookshelves, and its own telephone (a luxury in 1913), the walls were crammed with photos of Association presidents, University faculty, class portraits, and athletic teams.

The room, though, was only in use for four years. When Governor James Ferguson threatened to shut down the University over a controversy in 1917, the alumni rallied to protect their alma mater, and set up temporary headquarters in the Littlefield Building downtown. Two years later, after Ferguson had been impeached and World War I ended, the Association moved to the YMCA Building at the corner of 22nd and Guadalupe Streets.

Leslie Waggener HouseIn the 1920s, it ventured a little farther into west campus, where it purchased the quaint, Victorian-styled Waggener Home (above right), once owned by UT’s first president Leslie Waggener, at the corner of 23rd and San Antonio. It was here that alumni director John McCurdy and president Thomas Gregory guided the Association through the Union Project, a massive, and at times, heroic, fundraising campaign through part of the Great Depression to build Gregory and Anna Hiss gymnasiums, Hogg Auditorium, and the Texas Union.

When the Union building opened in 1933, the Association returned to campus with office space on the building’s second floor, now used as a student lounge next to the Union Ballroom. But after World War II, when a flood of returning veterans on the G. I. Bill created a boom in college enrollment across the nation, the alumni association soon discovered it needed more space.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Talks with University officials in the late 1950s led to the idea of the Association taking over the Littlefield Home at 24th and Whitis Streets, but extensive renovations would be required before the building was ready. In 1958 as a temporary measure, the staff was moved to the basement of Mary Gearing Hall, then used by the Department of Home Economics and is today the headquarters for the School of Human Ecology. The place was a little roomier, but the “mole hole,” as it informally came to be known, was difficult to find, and was certainly not suitable for the activities of a growing alumni association. After three years in its “temporary” quarters and no movement toward use of the Littlefield Home, a permanent solution was desperately needed.


John Holmes wasted no time on the Alumni House idea.The day after his return to Texas, Holmes conferred with other Association leaders, named a committee to investigate possibilities, and initiated a conversation with UT administrators. The point of contact from the University fell to UT System Vice Chancellor Larry Haskew, who moved the process along quickly.

Five weeks later, at the end of October, Haskew had prepared a draft report for the Board of Regents, which declared that “an Alumni House of distinctive character and outstanding convenience is of great importance to The University and that one should be provided as soon as possible.” The alumni committee and administration had investigated several options. The Littlefield Home was still a possibility, but serious design and financial obstacles existed. The group also looked at existing homes in the area, including the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house still located just north of campus, but the consensus was that a new facility, designed specifically for the needs of the alumni, was the best solution.

The desired location was the mostly-vacant lot on San Jacinto Boulevard, across the street from the football stadium. The area was still occupied by a pair of temporary men’s dormitories, former World War II army barracks that had been relocated to campus to accommodate the post-war growth in enrollment, but the dorms were scheduled for demolition. The space had been informally earmarked for a second student union building, but Haskew wrote, “This latter use would be enhanced, actually, by location there of Alumni House,” which implied that the alumni association and the Texas Union might join forces again in the future.

Lila Belle EtterTo help financially, the administration proposed using $110,000 from the Lila B. Etter trust fund, a bequest from the daughter (left) of former UT president Leslie Waggener. The alumni could add any amount desired, and the building would be known as the Etter Alumni House. Once completed and occupied, the Association would pay back the $110,000, without interest, at $5,000 per year.

The Board of Regents gave an initial green light to the project at its November meeting, and then formally approved use of the Etter fund and the San Jacinto location on February 3, 1962, a day after the Alumni Council had officially voted its consent. The local firm Jessen, Jessen, Milhouse and Greeven was brought aboard as the consulting architect, and Fred Day, a 1950 graduate of UT’s School of Architecture, was hired to design the building.


By June 1962, initial ideas had been discussed and approved, but the proposed sketch was unlike anything yet seen on the campus. “I’d feel safer,” Haskew wrote to Chancellor Harry Ransom and UT President Joe Smiley, “if both of you would look at the plot design and building schematics for the Alumni House. … My reaction is highly favorable, but the conception … is unusual enough to warrant advance cognizance of top administration before architects proceed with preliminary plans.”


Above: Fred Day’s initial plans for the Texas Alumni House. In this image, 21st Street runs along the left border with part of the Moore-Hill Residence Hall at top left, while San Jacinto Boulevard – with the stadium across the street – is at the bottom. Click on the image for an expanded view. Source: University of Texas Buildings Collection, Alexander Architecture Archives, University of Texas Libraries.

Haskew was prudent to call for “advance cognizance,” as Fred Day’s design was a bold one. The building didn’t simply nestle alongside the dappled and meandering waters of Waller Creek; the creek was the centerpiece of the plan. Day’s Alumni House resembled a squared “C” shape, with the central portion spanning the water. The east wing, nearest to San Jacinto Boulevard, contained the main entrance, lobby, and offices for the alumni association staff, while the west wing, on the far bank, housed a series of meeting rooms with creekside views, along with an extended outdoor dining terrace shaded by live oaks. Connecting the two wings was a grand main lounge and dining room, equipped with a catering kitchen. Visitors to the lounge would gaze out of full-length windows on either side to see Waller Creek pass underneath the building.

South and East Facades.Alumni House

Above: The south and east views of the Alumni House.Source: University of Texas Buildings Collection, Alexander Architecture Archives, University of Texas Libraries.

To ensure enough water was present, a small dam was planned just downstream from the building that would both back up the creek and add a waterfall. A second partial barrier installed upstream, in the form of a stepping stone bridge, provided foot access across the creek and created an artificial rapids.

Day purposely located the building near the south edge of the property, where the slope of hill on the west side of the creek was a little less steep. It also reserved the rest of the land for parking and future expansion.

Alumni House First Rendidtion.August 1962

Alumni House.First Rendition.1.August 1962

 Above:Sterling Holloway, Allan Shivers, Harry Ransom, and Jack Maguire show off the first rendering of the UT Alumni House in August 1962. Though it’s difficult to make out much detail, the building’s entrance is in the center, the east wing with offices is to the right, and the main lounge, spanning Waller Creek, is on the left. The footbridge crossed a tributary (that still exists) which would have been redirected to be perpendicular to the creek and behind the downstream dam. Click on an image for a larger view.

 AAS.1961.Alumni House AnnouncedA first birds-eye rendition of the Alumni House was ready in August and a formal announcement made to the press, though the reported cost varied from $250,000 – $300,000. The actual estimate was near $260,000, which required the alumni to raise $150,000 and add it to the $110,000 from the Etter fund.


Alumni House Planning CommitteeWith the fall 1962 semester underway and Fred Day at work on formal architectural plans, attention focused on fundraising. John Holmes appointed a fundraising committee. Former Association president Sterling Holloway agreed to chair the group, while former Texas governor Allan Shivers oversaw the acquisition of special gifts. Popular Dean of Student Life Arno Nowotny was named vice chairman. (A complete roster of the planning committee is on the right. Click on the image for a larger view.)

AAS.1962.10.11.Houston Dallas Meetings SetThere were discussions with university officials on whether to concentrate on a few large donations or make a general appeal to all alumni. In the end, both strategies were used. In October and November, luncheons for prospective donors were held in cities throughout the state, including: Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Tyler, Midland, and others. On the agenda were talks by Harry Ransom, Allan Shivers, Arno Nowotny, Sterling Holloway, and Jack Maguire.

Fundraising Luncheon Invite Stationery

Above: Stationery used for luncheon invitations claimed that the alumni association had been “homeless since 1885.”

 In concert with the fundraising luncheons, the November issue of the Alcalde alumni magazine featured a second, more detailed rendition of the building, which was now formally styled the “Lila B. Etter Alumni Center.” Included in the magazine was a general appeal for donations. Members of the Association also received letters which asked if they “could spare 144 bricks?” as a minimum $10 contribution would purchase those materials, a square yard of carpet, or two gallons of paint.

UT Alumni Center.1962.Alcalde Cover

1962 Alumni Center.Main Lounge

Top: A detailed view of the proposed Alumni Center, with some color added by the author to better distinguish the location of Waller Creek and the outline of the building. The east wing, in the shape of a “+,” housed offices for staff and a vault to safeguard the original alumni records, then kept on index cards. Above: A cutaway view of the main lounge, which used about 2/3 of the central wing. Beyond the doors was a smaller dining/meeting room, with a kitchen behind the wall on the far side. Click on an image for a larger view.

 Along with alumni donations, other contributions came from a variety of sources. In January 1963, Allan Shivers, American Airlines president C. R. Smith, and actor Rip Torn, represented the University on “Alumni Fun,” a popular weekly quiz show broadcast on ABC. The team won $4,700, which was donated to the building fund. Along with quiz show winnings, the Canteen Company of America, one of the largest providers of vending machines in the United States, donated a week’s proceeds from three of its most popular coffee machines on the UT campus, and presented the alumni with $410 in dimes.

January 1963.Alumni Fun

Above: Allan Shivers, C R Smith, and Rip Torn compete for the University of Texas in ABC’s Alumni Fun quiz show in January 1963.

By mid-spring, the campaign was a success. More than 3,000 alumni had sent contributions from $1 and greater, including three $10,000 donors, six $5,000 donors, and 25 alumni who gave $1,000 each. The new Alumni Center seemed assured, and a groundbreaking ceremony was promptly scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 6th, on the banks of Waller Creek. A large sign on the property announced the future home of the Ex-Students’ Association and told passersby to expect to see the Alumni Center within the year.

1963.Alumni Center Groundbreaking.Edited


Top: A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the Waller Creek site on April 6, 1963. On the right is one of two post-WW II temporary dorms that were scheduled for removal. Groundbreaking participants included UT alumnus and Texas Governor John Connally, Board of Regents chair W. W. Heath, UT President Joe Smiley, and Dean Arno Nowotny.


The bad news came a few weeks after the groundbreaking. After bids were opened for contractors, the cost of the Alumni Center as designed was far greater than anticipated, specifically the transformation of the western bank of Waller Creek to make room for the west wing and dining terrace, the extensive use of retaining walls, and a redirected tributary to the creek so that it would remain behind the proposed dam. Through the summer of 1963, architect Fred Day attempted to redesign the structure. He shortened the west wing and reversed its direction, and then removed it outright while still preserving the main lounge. Neither brought the costs down to acceptable levels. Unwilling to reopen the fundraising drive, the Alumni Center committee reluctantly abandoned the initial plans and sent Day back to the drawing board.

Alumni Center.Redesign.August 1963

Above: Fred Day attempted to redesign the Alumni Center by shortening the west wing and pointing it towards 21st Street. Source: University of Texas Buildings Collection, Alexander Architecture Archives, University of Texas Libraries.

Through the fall, Day worked on new plans for the building, placed it alongside Waller Creek instead of over it, and preserved the elements used in the initial designs. The single main lounge and dining area was divided into two connected rooms at right angles, and then joined to a larger structure around a simple square courtyard with a fountain. The plan afforded ample light throughout and office windows that faced either the courtyard or outside, while the main lounge and the dining room (today used by the Texas Expresso Café) were nudged close to the edge of Waller Creek for the best views. A walled patio adjoined the main lounge to make room for larger alumni events.

ALumni Center.1965.With Orange Carpet welcome

Above: The Alumni Center, drawn with Jack Maguire’s “orange carpet” welcome.

Alumni Center.Main Lounge.1965

Above: The Main Lounge of the Alumni Center.

Designed in “Early Texas” style – which Fred Day described as a blend of Western and Spanish colonial – the 14,400 square foot textured brick building featured copper chandeliers in the main entrance, lounge, and dining room, that were hand-crafted in Mexico. Terra-cotta tiles, mahogany doors and paneling, vaulted beamed ceilings, and concrete Spanish roof tiles all added to the decor, along with refinished furniture from the 1930s that had originally been used when the offices were in the Texas Union. The Alumni Center, though, was also unabashedly a part of the University of Texas. Brass handles for the two front door were designed in the shape of “U’s” and attached to equally large “T’s” on the door front. The light fixtures were purposely created to evoke images of interlocking “UT’s,” and the orange and white silk-screened draperies, along with the orange carpeting in the staff offices, was hard to miss.

AAS.1965.Alumni Center to be dedicated

Construction finally began on April 27, 1964, just over a year after the groundbreaking. The alumni association staff moved into its new quarters the following February, and it was officially opened Saturday, April 3, 1965. In the morning, the graduating classes of 1940 and 1915 were the first to use the new building to start their 25 and 50-year reunions, and then joined a larger crowd outside in front for the dedication ceremony, which included performances by the Longhorn Singers and the Longhorn Band.

Alumni Center Dedication.1965.04.03

Executive Director Jack Maguire explained to those assembled, “Many years ago, Edgar Guest wrote a poem which began, ‘It takes a heap of livin’ to make a house a home.’ Today we are dedicating a very beautiful house. … It’s a heap of house,and we invite you to do a heap of living in it. The best invitation I can extend to you is a line which was used to introduce the 1915 Cactus. ‘The gate is down – ride through.’ Today the gate to the Lila B. Etter Alumni  Center is down. Ride through it – any and every time you are here.”

Alumni Center.0s.300. - Copy

How NOT to Choose a University President

UT Campus.1923.

Above: The University of Texas campus in the early 1920s.

 Thursday, May 15, 1924: Lutcher Stark, Chairman of the Board of Regents, asked the doors to be locked and the windows closed. The board was meeting with the alumni association’s executive council about the selection of the next University president, but Stark was adamant that their discussion should be strictly confidential. “No word must get out to the newspapers,” he instructed. No one knew that an intrepid reporter from The Daily Texan was hiding in the closet, notepad at the ready.

Within 48 hours of the meeting, the board broke their pledge to the alumni, offered the presidency to the governor of Texas, two regents abruptly resigned, and the ambitious fundraising campaign to build the football stadium was almost derailed.

Sometimes, choosing a new UT president doesn’t go smoothly.


Initially, the University had no president. In the spring of 1881, as the Texas Legislature debated the bill that would create UT, concerns were raised in the House that Governor Oran Roberts would be named to head the University when his term expired.  Though Roberts strongly supported the university bill, opponents argued that asking Roberts to oversee UT would set a precedent and forever politicize the office. The position ought to go to someone academically qualified, not become a retreat for retired politicians.

A compromise was reached between Senator Alexander Terrell and Representative Joseph Hutcheson. Terrell preferred to have a president, but also wanted the university to be open to women as well as men, a progressive idea for its time. Hutcheson believed enrollment should be limited only to male students, and argued that UT be modeled after the University of Virginia – his alma mater – which was then the only university in the country led by a faculty chairman instead of a president. To break the impasse, Terrell agreed to a faculty chair, while Hutcheson conceded to the enrollment of women. Roberts was denied the possibility of serving as UT’s president, but was appointed as one of the two initial law professors.

Leslie WaggenerFor most of UT’s first decade, English Professor Leslie Waggener (photo at left, for whom Waggener Hall is named) served as the faculty chairman, though it became increasingly apparent that an administrator, someone apart from the professors, was needed. In 1895, Waggener was declared president ad interim as the regents began to search for a permanent chief executive. They didn’t have to look far, as an unwitting prime candidate came to them. In June 1896, the faculty invited George Winston, then President of the University of North Carolina, to Austin to deliver the spring commencement address. Winston’s demeanor and speech so impressed the regents, that Winston was immediately recruited. He was named UT’s president before the month was over.


Perhaps the most difficult selection of a UT president began in February, 1923, when Robert Vinson resigned to take the helm of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Vinson had piloted UT through the 1917 controversy with Governor James Ferguson, as well as a 1921 attempt to relocate the entire campus from its confined 40 acres to the more spacious Brackenridge Tract. (The effort was deemed too costly. Instead, state lawmakers approved funds to purchase land east of the campus. See The Littlefield Gateway for more on the proposed move.)

The board accepted Vinson’s resignation with “deep regret,” voted to award him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, and named Will Sutton, the Dean of Education, as President ad interim. Almost immediately, the inevitable speculation began on who would be Vinson’s successor. The most notable came from the Austin Statesman. After the regents’ meeting, Chairman Lutcher Stark met privately with the governor for over an hour. The next day, the Statesman reported a “flock of rumors” in the state capitol “that Governor Pat Neff might resign . . . in order to become president of the University of Texas.”

Will HoggThough it was just a rumor, it persisted with enough frequency to worry Will Hogg and the officers of the University’s Ex-Students’ Association. Hogg, the son of former governor James Hogg, a UT graduate, and a Houston lawyer, had donated a small fortune to promote higher education throughout the state, was instrumental in founding the Alcalde alumni magazine, had served a term on the Board of Regents, and steered the ex-students’ efforts through the political conflict with Governor Ferguson, which prevented the University from being closed and resulted in Ferguson’s impeachment and resignation. (On campus, the W. C. Hogg Building is named for him.) When Will Hogg was concerned, the alumni tended to listen.

AAS.1923.06.05.Alumni Oppose Neff as UT Prez - CopyAt its annual meeting in June 1923, which coincided with spring commencement, the alumni association approved a resolution in opposition to Pat Neff as UT president. “For Governor Neff as a governor, a friend to the University and as a Christian gentleman, we have only words of commendation and praise,” the resolution stated, “but we do not believe that the qualities which make him an able governor in any way prove his fitness for presidency of the University.” The issue was neither personal nor directly political. The governor, a UT alumnus, was generally popular among the alumni. Hogg and Neff belonged to the same 1897 law school class, where both participated in the University’s first celebration of Texas Independence Day. Echoing their 1881 counterparts in the legislature, the alumni were simply anxious not to let the office of president become politicized.

A copy of the resolution was sent to the Board of Regents and acknowledged by Chairman Lutcher Stark, but the regents took no other action toward finding Vinson’s successor, which only prompted more gossip that the board was deliberately dragging its heels to wait until Neff had completed his term as governor.

In the meantime, attention on campus had turned to a new topic: building a football stadium.


UT Football Player.1900sBy the 1920s, intercollegiate football had gained a strong national following and developed a competitive parity between teams beyond the traditional “Big Three” of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Improvements in transportation, especially the wildly popular and affordable Model T automobile, along with massive post-World War I improvements to roads, provided rural American families the opportunity to drive in to town on a Saturday and watch a game. With better teams and more fans, college football had become big business.

To accommodate the crowds, impressive stadiums were being constructed across the country, many of them named as memorial tributes to those who had fought in the recent world war. Stanford opened a 65,000-seat venue in 1921, followed closely by Ohio State (63,000), Illinois (67,000), California (73,000), Michigan (84,000), and others. For much of the decade, stadium building was almost a mania.

1924.Clark Field

Above: Part of the west stands of old Clark Field.

At the University of Texas, football had been played on the old Clark Field since the 1890s (at the corner of 24th and Speedway Streets, where the O’Donnell Building and Dell-Gates Complex are today), but by the 1920s, the student-built creaky wooden bleachers were inadequate and always needed repairs. (See The One Week Stadium) A new facility was sorely needed.

United behind Coach “Doc” Stewart’s motto, “For Texas, I Will,” the 1923 Longhorn football team had a banner season. Opponents didn’t score a point through the first six games. Baylor fought hard to a 7-7 tie, which spoiled the undefeated record, but the next week Oklahoma succumbed 26-14. Only the Thanksgiving Day bout against A&M, to be held in College Station, was left on the schedule.

Off the field, the campus chatter was about building a new athletic stadium. Some thought the estimated $500,000 cost was too ambitious a goal. Nothing close to it had been attempted. Others believed a new venue was overdue, and if the team continued its winning ways, alumni support would make the difference. If Texas prevailed over A&M, a stadium campaign was likely. But there was a catch: Texas had never won on Kyle Field since games were first played there in 1915.

On Thanksgiving Day, thousands of UT fans either drove their Model T’s or boarded trains for College Station. Many wore orange and white armbands that read, “Win or Lose, a Stadium by Thanksgiving, 1924.” Walter Hunnicutt collaborated with Longhorn Band director Burnett Pharr to compose a new song. A friendly spoof on A&M’s “Aggie Taps,” the pair called it “Texas Taps.” The band introduced the tune at the game, and it was an instant favorite. (Today, fans know it as “Texas Fight.” Listen to the earliest recording of the song.) Texas won the day 6-0 over the Aggies, and the fundraising campaign to build a stadium wasn’t far behind.


Feb 25 1924.Stadium Kickoff Rally

Above: With snow falling outside, students launch the fundraising effort for the stadium.

At 2 p.m. on Monday, February 25, 1924, in the midst of a rare Austin snowstorm, almost 2,500 students – out of an enrollment of 4,400 – trudged through icy slush to attend an unprecedented rally in the wooden men’s gymnasium. The goal was to build Memorial Stadium, named to honor Texans who had participated in the recent World War. In just over week, the students hoped to raise $100,000 in pledges on the campus. The citizens of Austin would be called upon for another $100,000, and then the alumni would need to donate the remaining $300,000. The east and west stands would be built first, with the north end zone and overall façade to be completed later. For the stadium to be ready by the 1924 football season, construction needed to begin in June.

To no one’s surprise, the leader of the stadium drive was Regent Lutcher Stark. “I will make you this proposition,” he announced to the crowd, “Lutcher Stark will donate to the stadium 10 per cent of what is raised on campus by the students.”


Lutcher StarkBorn, perhaps appropriately, in the East Texas town of Orange, Stark was the heir to a vast lumber and oil fortune. He arrived at the University in 1905 as the first student to own a car, graduated in 1910, and became a whirlwind of business activity, involved in banking, real estate, insurance, manufacturing, and petroleum. His family home has been preserved as a museum, along with the Stark Museum of Art just across the street.

Texas Longhorn Blankets 1915Outside of business, Stark’s great interest was the University of Texas sports program, and was its first super-booster. A Saturday Evening Post article would dub him the “Archangel” of UT athletics. Though the football team had been called “Longhorns” since 1904, Stark provided the 1915 squad with blankets embroidered with “Texas Longhorns,”
the first time the team had publicly sported its name. A generous donor, Stark also found summer jobs for many student-athletes. (Stark’s mother, Miriam, was also a contributor to the University, including the valuable Stark Library, located in the president’s suite in the Main Building.) In 1919, Governor William Hobby appointed the 31-year old Stark to the Board of Regents, where he would remain for 24 years.

But as Chairman of the Board of Regents, his passions sometimes led to controversy. At the July 1923 regents’ meeting, Stark oversaw the creation of a new College of Physical Activities, which would coordinate men’s and women’s intramural sports, P.T. classes, and offer a degree in physical education. It was no secret that Stark wanted to promote Athletic Director Theo Bellmont to Dean of the college, but this was controversial with the alumni, who thought it placed too much emphasis on athletics. As Bellmont had no advanced degree, the idea didn’t sit well with the faculty, either. (Two years later, the college was reorganized as a subsidiary of the School of Education and is now the Department of Kinesiology.)


For Texas I Will.Stadium Drive.Lunch Meeting Above: A 500-member student committee held daily lunch meetings in the gym.

With the stadium drive underway, 500 students were divided into 68 teams to solicit anyone and everyone on campus. The group met for lunch daily at the men’s gym, under an enormous “For Texas, I Will” banner hung on the east wall, and reported on pledges from the previous day. Each morning, The Daily Texan published a different slogan above its masthead, while the contributor won a pair of tickets to a local movie theater. Among the refrains:

Fall in Line! Don’t Lag Behind – This is Stadium Time!

Let’s Give our Roll to Build that Bowl

Don’t Pass the Buck – Pass Several Bucks to the Stadium

Come, Chum, with a Maximum Sum for the Stadium

DT Headline.1924.02.16.

Above: Before and through the student pledge drive, The Daily Texan published stadium slogans above its masthead.

The campus drive ended March 4th and exceeded all expectations. The students, faculty, and staff had together pledged $166,000, and Lutcher Stark promptly wrote a check for $16,600.

Alcalde.April 1924A month later, from April 4–11, it was Austin’s turn to take up the project. With the help of a 300-person organizing committee, and rallied by a parade of UT students down Congress Avenue (unfortunately in a downpour), the city contributed $115,000. The crucial alumni pledge drive was set to begin in mid-May.

To prime the ex-students, the Alcalde alumni magazine published a special stadium edition in April. It featured articles on the successful campus pledge drive, and was filled with supportive letters from faculty, coaches, and prominent alumni. The back cover compared building the stadium to the construction of the Roman Coliseum. “Our Memorial Stadium,” the magazine predicted, “will command the admiration of generations unborn. Like a mantle of ivy, time will weave o’er its beloved walls a soft halo of tradition.”

Photos above: The front and back cover of the April, 1924 Alcalde magazine; a color rendition of the proposed stadium by Dallas architect Herbert Greene. Click on image for a larger view.


 The same edition of the Alcalde also issued a complaint: “Month after month there is talk of the election of a President of the University by the Board of Regents, but month after month nothing is done.” As the spring continued, questions arose about the board’s lack of progress. The Students’ Assembly approved a measure in favor of Dr. Sutton as the permanent chief executive. Alumni around the state started petitions for other candidates, including one for Lutcher Stark, and rumors persisted that the board still planned to name Governor Neff. To press the matter, the executive council of the alumni association requested a conference with the regents. The meeting was scheduled for the evening of May 15th.


1923 Board of Regents

Above: The UT Board of Regents in President Sutton’s office, spring 1924.

On a warm Thursday morning, May 15, 1924, the Board of Regents convened in President Sutton’s office in the Education Building. (Today, it’s the architecture graduate student lounge on the ground floor of Sutton Hall.) The regents spent the day discussing University business, and then adjourned for dinner. They planned to return in about an hour to meet with the alumni executive council, though the engagement was to be in executive session and not open to the public.

Biological Labs.1924While the office was empty, a freshman reporter from The Daily Texan quietly entered and hid in a closet that adjoined the room. Notepad at the ready, he concealed himself among the architectural drawings for the Biological Sciences Building, then under construction (photo at right), and plans for the new stadium.

An hour later, the alumni joined the regents for a closed-door conference. Chairman Stark asked the details of their conversation not be made public, and all agreed. Will Hogg spoke on behalf of the alumni, and outlined the objections for appointing Governor Neff as UT president.

“Well, you have sufficient confidence in us to believe that we won’t select Neff, haven’t you?” responded Regent Frank Jones. “Well, Neff is not the first governor of Texas who has wanted the presidency of the University. We won’t give it to him.”

The alumni were assured that Neff wouldn’t be selected, and the conversation turned to the board’s two “real” candidates:  Guy Stanton Ford, then head of the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota, and Herbert Bolton, a previous member of the UT faculty who was then a history professor at the University of California in Berkeley. The regents were leaning toward Bolton. With the alumni satisfied, the regents retired for the night, set to continue their official meeting the next afternoon. The Texan reporter, who had recorded the entire discussion, waited until the building was quiet before he made his escape, but not before he helped himself to a few of the regents’ cigars.

DT.1924.05.16.Bolton to be Elected

Friday morning, the Texan printed a complete account of the meeting and predicted that Dr. Guy Ford would be UT’s next president. The identity of the reporter was never revealed “for the sake of his university career,” though the Texan added that the regents smoked “bum cigars.”

That afternoon, the board reconvened as scheduled, promoted Theo Bellmont to Dean of the new College of Physical Activities, and then, contrary to their verbal pledge to the alumni the previous evening, promptly voted 7-2 to tender Governor Pat Neff the position of UT president. Stark telephoned Neff, who was then in the town of Eastland, and informed the governor.

Regents Sam Cochran and Frank Jones, who had voted no, immediately resigned from the board. A statement to explain their position was included in the minutes: “We believe it contrary to the best interests of the University and of the State, and wrong in principal, to select as the President of that institution the Governor of the State, who holds the appointive power with respect to the Board of Regents.”

“No, Neff’s election was not a complimentary one,” Stark later explained. “We wanted him to be president of the University.” Within an hour of the vote, the board received a telegram from Neff, who politely and tactfully declined.

The seven remaining regents went into executive session and unanimously elected Ford as president, with a $10,000 annual salary and a house. A telegram was sent to Minnesota before the board adjourned.



The regents’ actions were public knowledge by 4 p.m. that afternoon, and Will Hogg was furious. At 6:30 that evening, Hogg fired off a caustic telegram to Stark on behalf of the entire alumni council. Still preserved in the UT Archives, Hogg wrote, in part: “All here feel that while Neff’s declination on that evidently framed honorary election does his common sense a puny mite of credit, the contumely of that smear will be justly heaped on all of you … for as Ex-Students you failed to defend the constitutional sanctity and tritest ideals of your Alma Mater … If you truly desire to serve the University, you should at least resign from the Stadium Drive, or complete it out of your own pocket as a trifling tribute from a contrite conscience for the shameful thing you have done, for you as Chairman of the Board and leader of the Stadium effort can’t get a sou marque from Houston … until this personal and official obloquy is totally erased by your abject personal abasement.” The text of Hogg’s telegram found its way into the newspapers.


In what might best be described as a great family quarrel, the entire University community was suddenly in an uproar. Alumni demanded Stark’s resignation from the Board of Regents and the stadium drive. The students, more interested in completing the stadium to which they’d just pledged $166,000, rushed to defend Stark. The faculty openly criticized the regents’ choices and called Bellmont’s promotion to dean “absurd.” Bellmont, who was content being the athletic director, learned the news of his new title by reading about it in the Texan, and found himself in an awkward situation. Meanwhile, Guy Ford wanted nothing to do with the University of Texas. Less than 24-hours after his selection, Ford sent his wife to tell reporters that he planned to stay in Minnesota.

1924.Stadium Site

As steam shovels cleared the site for the stadium and horse-drawn carts carried off excess rocks and soil, alumni pledges slowed to a trickle throughout the state and ceased entirely in all-important Houston. Contract work was to begin June 1st. If the situation wasn’t resolved quickly, the stadium effort would unravel and be delayed at least a year.

A few days after the regents meeting, Stark issued a 1,500 word statement to the press, and blamed the controversy on a small group in Houston. University graduate Maury Maverick of San Antonio (a future U.S. Congressman) countered to the Associated Press that Stark’s claim was a “smoke screen” and thought Stark still wanted Pat Neff. In the Dallas Morning News, Richard Fleming, president of the Houston chapter of the alumni association, said Stark’s claim was “unfounded,” and explained, “The opposition of the ex-students has not been directed personally toward Neff, but it has been solely directed toward the proposition of the selection of a man not fitted by education or training for the presidency.”


On Sunday, June 1st, after two weeks of dispute, and as alumni gathered in Austin for spring commencement and the ex-students’ annual meeting, Lutcher Stark, Will Hogg, and several members of the alumni council met at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin. After three hours of discussion and negotiation, differences were put aside. Stark resigned from the stadium project, but remained Chairman of the Board of Regents. Hogg pledged to promote the stadium drive in Houston and throughout the state to ensure its success.

AAS.1924.06.13.Bolton tells off ReportersThe regents also announced their selection of Herbert Bolton as University president. Bolton, on the history faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, had tentatively accepted, and planned to visit Austin in two weeks to finalize the details.

Any celebration that UT finally had a new leader, though, was premature. Bolton arrived in Austin and met with the regents on June 12th, but when later asked by a reporter from the Austin Statesman as to whether he would formally accept the presidency, Bolton responded, “Go to hell.” (What was discussed with the regents is unknown. Unfortunately, no Texan reporter was hiding in the closet.) Ultimately, Bolton returned to California. The regents went to their next choice: Walter Splawn.

Walter SplawnAn outstanding UT economics professor and an expert in transportation and labor, the 41-year old Splawn (photo at right) had been on a leave of absence since 1923 after Governor Neff appointed him to the Texas Railroad Commission. Splawn accepted the position in July, which ended 17 months of uncertainty, and served as UT’s president for three years.



Meanwhile, Texas Memorial Stadium opened on time for the fall 1924 football season, and in 1932, Pat Neff was appointed president of Baylor University, his undergraduate alma mater, and held the position for 15 years. Baylor’s main administrative building was named for him.

1924.Texas Memorial Stadium

A reminder: The UT History Corner is not an official publication of the University of Texas. The views expressed are those of the author.

Commencement 1912: No Style for a Texas Sundial

Above: A century ago, Spring Commencement was held on a June morning, on the northwest side of the old Main Building and protected from the early summer sun.

The University’s annual Spring Commencement draws tens of thousands to the Forty Acres. It’s a two-day extravaganza of school, college, and departmental ceremonies all over campus, culminating in a University-wide spectacle Saturday evening in front of the Tower. The deans brag about their schools and colleges, the University President congratulates both graduates and parents on their achievements, and fireworks are launched from the Tower to the delight of everyone.

Though not as grand in scale, the graduation schedule of 1912 was just as packed, and extended over four days in mid-June, starting with a Saturday all-University dance that began early, at 7:30 a.m, to take advantage of the relatively cool temperatures in the morning. A baccalaureate service was held Sunday, followed by Class Day ceremonies Monday morning, which featured the passing of gavels and other symbols of leadership on to next year’s senior class. The alumni association held their annual meeting and luncheon immediately afterward, and divided their ranks into three groups: the “Ancients” were those who had graduated among the University’s first 10 classes, 1884 – 1893; “Mediaevals” finished their degrees between 1894 and 1903; and “Old Timers” designated the rest. Each group had a special ribbon to wear for the week.

The alumni luncheon finished in time for attendees to stroll over to old Clark Field to watch the first-ever baseball game between the current Longhorn team and the alumni. UT grad Will Hogg, son of former Texas governor Jim Hogg (and for whom the Will C. Hogg Building is named), served as celebrity umpire. Coach Billy Disch arranged to borrow “baseball suits” from the local Austin Senators team so the alumni would have a uniform to wear. It didn’t help. Despite the stand-outs on the alumni roster, the Longhorns won the day.

But the day wasn’t yet finished. At 7:30 that evening, a crowd gathered on the campus for the popular student-alumni parade through downtown. Many in the group carried torches or vari-colored Chinese lanterns, and the parade included two brass bands and several floats. “After a thousand torch lights of red and green,” reported the Austin Daily Statesman, “the student body and the old time grads who are visiting, frisked around the campus and back again.” The procession ended on the northwest side of the old Main Building in front of a temporary wooden platform. There, graduating seniors put on vaudville acts, other students offered skits, and held yell leader Teddy Reese lead the group in some UT cheers and songs before the party ended late in the evening.

The official commencement ceremony, Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., was conducted at the same spot as the previous night’s gathering, in the shade behind Old Main. An elegant Final Ball that night at the Driskill Hotel concluded the week’s events.

Sprinkled in between the cracks of a hectic schedule were plenty of receptions and other parties, and the formal dedication of a gift to the University from the Academic Class of 1912: a sundial (photo at left). With a marble pillar and a brass plate, it was placed about 100 feet south of the Woman’s Building – the first co-ed residence hall – so that it would have been seen along today’s West Mall.

Unfortunately, the sundial’s style, usually a triangular piece that casts a shadow on to the plate, wasn’t made for Austin’s latitude. “The time of day could not be determined to the nearest hour,” moaned Harry Benedict, then Dean of the Academic Department, “and the time of night could not be determined at all.” This made the sundial’s inscription, “Ye Know Not The Hour,” both redundant and superfluous.

Even worse, within a year, the style was broken off and taken outright, an act that reduced the inscription to being downright hilarious, and prompted accusations from College Station that “Texas has no style.” Despite the heartfelt intentions from the Class of 1912, the poor sundial was quietly removed, and has long since been lost.