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History of Baylor University

from Baylor University Student Handbook

In the early 1840s Baptist pioneers in the republic of Texas organized an education society for the purpose of establishing a university "to meet the demand of all ages to come."  Of the many leaders of the Texas Baptist Education Society, the Rev. William M. Tryon and Judge R.E.B. Baylor are credited as founders of what has become the oldest university in Texas.

Tryon was a missionary appointee of the American Baptist Home Mission Society headquartered in New York, and Baylor was judge of the third judicial district and a member of the Texas Supreme Court.  Tryon had attended Mercer Institute in Georgia and had pastored churches in Alabama prior to moving to Texas in 1841.

Baylor, a native of Kentucky, had been legislator in both Kentucky and Alabama and a member of the U.S. Congress from 1829031.  he became a Christian in the summer of 1839 at the age of 46.  Shortly afterwards, he received his license to preach the gospel and emigrated to Texas.  He and Tryon conducted numerous revival meetings across the Texas frontier, and both were leaders of the Union Baptist Association, the first Baptist missionary organization in the republic.

The idea to create an institution of higher education had first been Tryon's and Baylor was an avid proponent from the beginning.  Both jointly prepared the petition for a charter of a Baptist university and submitted it to congress in December, 1844.  The first name suggested for the institution was San Jacinto University.  This was followed by a recommendation that it be called Milam University.

As deliberations continued, the name Baylor was submitted and rapidly approved by both houses, though Judge Baylor protested that he was not worthy of such an honor.  On February 1, 1845, Anson Jones, president of the republic, affixed his signature, thus officially creating Baylor University.

Classes began in May, 1846, in a small wooden building on a hillside at Independence in Washington County.  The first president was the Rev. Henry Lee Graves who was succeeded in 1851 by the Rev. Rufus C. Burleson.  During Burleson's ten-year tenure, the university operated male and female departments, each housed on separate campuses a mile or so apart.  Burleson resigned in 1861 to accept the presidency of the fledgling Waco Classical School which soon changed its name to Waco University.  He remained at the helm of this school until 1886.

At Independence, the Rev. George W. Baines, great-grandfather of the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, guided the university through the early years of the Civil War.  The Rev. William Carey Crane assumed the presidency in 1864.  Two years later the female department received a separate charter and became Baylor Female College.

As the Baptist denomination spread across Texas, several new Baptist bodies were created.  Many of these groups established colleges and academies which competed with Baylor for students and financial support.  Chief rival for denominational loyalty was Waco University, although there were several other schools that operated with varying degrees of success.

During Reconstruction, population shifts, as well as economic and sociological changes, made the operation at Baylor increasingly difficult.  Only by the masterful leadership of Crane did the school continue to attract students and remain solvent.

Agitation to unite competing Baylor organizations and to establish one central university increased in the late 1870s and early 1880s.  Forces desiring to make Baylor the single Texas Baptist institution suffered and insurmountable loss with the death of Crane in 1885.  He was succeeded by Rev. Reddin Andrews who held the school together while the movement to unify the more than two dozen Baptist organizations that had been designed to promote and support specific educational and missionary causes came to fruition.

In 1886, with the consolidation of the Baptist General Association and the Baptist State Convention to form the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baylor and Waco universities unified to become Baylor University at Waco.  Baylor Female College moved to Belton and today is the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Rufus Burleson was named president of the consolidated schools.  Within the next few years the campus expanded to form a quadrangle bounded by the F.L. Carroll Chapel and Library Building, Georgia Burleson Hall, Main Building, and George W. Carroll Science Hall.

In 1897, Burleson became president emeritus; and in August 1899, O.H. Cooper took over the leadership of the school.

Two and a half years later, he was succeeded by Samuel Palmer Brooks, a Baylor and a Yale graduate, who led the institution during the next three decades from its small provincial status to nationwide acclaim as a true university.

During Brooks' administration, the colleges of medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy were established in Dallas; a Theological Seminary was started; the School of Nursing became a diploma-granting program; Baylor Hospital, now the Baylor University Medical Center and headquarters of Baylor Health Care System, was created in Dallas; the College of Arts and Sciences was organized; and the schools of education, music, and business were formed.  The School of Law, which had existed earlier at Independence, was reestablished.

Following his death in 1931, Brooks' college roommate and former governor of Texas, Pat M. Neff, was inaugurated.  He guided the institution through the Depression and World War II, creating the graduate school in 1947, during his last year in office.

The Rev. W.R. White assumed the helm in 1948 and embarked upon a massive building program, adding many classroom and dormitory facilities during his thirteen-year administration.

Abner V. McCall, then dean of the law school, took over the leadership of the institution in 1961 and for two decades guided its growth and development.

Dr. Herbert H. Reynolds, who had served with McCall as executive vice president for twelve years, was named president in June, 1981.  During his administration, more than $180 million in facilities were added; endowment grew from an approximate market value of $80 million to more than $340 million; and net assets surpassed $600 million.  Dr. Reynolds served as chancellor from June, 1995, to May, 2000, and became president emeritus on June 1, 2000.

On June 1, 1995, Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr. assumed responsibilities as the twelfth president of Baylor University.  Prior to his being named president, Dr. Sloan served the university as dean of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary.  Over the last five years, Baylor's endowment has grown to more than $644 million, and the university's net assets have increased to over one billion dollars.

The growth and development of the faculty have remained a high priority, and many new academic programs and extracurricular opportunities have been created for the 13,000-member student body which comes from all 50 states and about 70 foreign countries.  The university's some 85,000 alumni now live in 138 countries around the world.