SFA Story: The History of Stephen F. Austin State University

SFA Chartered in 1917

Charter saved - funding lost

The sequence of events which began in the late summer of 1917 is told below at the state level from the Minutes of the Board of Regents for the State Normal Schools and at the local level from The Daily Sentinel. First, Birdwell is elected president of SFA, architects are named, property title verification begun, and plans and specifications let. Second, Governor Ferguson was forced to give over the governorship to Hobby when the former was placed under a bill of impeachment. Nacogdoches was extremely worried; would the new governor veto the charter creating SFA and the designation of Nacogdoches as the site "east of the 96th meridian?" Third, a compromise postponing the implementation of the charter is reached, but the solution was considered "a great injustice to Nacogdoches." Editorial Note-JLJ.]

Minutes, Board of Regents, July 31, 1917

Birdwell Elected President of SFA

"[After two ballots] Mr. Birdwell was declared duly elected [and assigned to]. . . . S. F. Austin Normal, Nacogdoches. . . . Messers Endress & Watkins, Architects of Austin and Houston, . . .[were] employed to prepare plans and specifications and to supervise the construction of . . . Stephen F. Austin Normal at Nacogdoches . . . [and] Messers Flowers, Eckhardt and Goeth . . . be appointed a committee to act in conjunction with the architects, and the respective Presidents of the respective schools, as to plans and construction of the buildings to be erected at Kingsville, Nacogdoches, and Alpine."

August 23, 1917. Minutes, Board of Regents:

"[M.O. Flowers appointed] chairman of the committee to visit Nacogdoches . . . for the purpose of further arranging the details incidental to the final acceptance by the board of the sites offered."

Daily Sentinel , September 10, 1917

[Governor Will Not Veto Legislation]

". . . Acting Governor W. P. Hobby gave out the following statement today [Sept. 8]: ‘While I am acting governor pending the impeachment trial, it is not my intention to submit to the legislature either the repeal or amendment of the normal school and other appropriations for new institution made by the Thirty-fifth legislature. I can not think it is contemplated by the constitution or that it is wise for one who is temporarily discharging the duties of governor under these circumstances to initiate legislation about which there is a wise difference of opinion, and which will likely precipate a heated and extended controversy’."

Minutes, Board of Regents, September 24, 1917

[Report to Governor on SFA in Nacogdoches.]

"Special . . . request of Governor Hobby to advise him to what extent the faith of the State of Texas had been pledged by the Board in the location of the Stephen F. Austin [Normal] . . . .

"[Report] Stephen F. Austin Normal at Nacogdoches:

"After canvassing the territory East of the 96th meridian and the eastern boundary of the State, and duly considering the propositions made to the Board by the several towns and cities which were candidates for the location of this school, the board bearing in mind the limitations surrounding its action and conditions in the law providing for the location of said school concluded that the Stephen F. Austin Normal College should be located at Nacogdoches.

"The citizenship of that city has complied with all of the requisites of the law and with the excactions of the Board respecting the location of the school there. A tract of land containing 205 [sic] acres conveniently located for the purpose for the successful maintenance and operation of the School has been conveyed to the State, and have carried out all the promises, and conditions set forth in their formal application on file with this Board asking for the location of said school. . . . The deed conveying said land to the State has been executed and delivered to the president of this board, and the abstract of title to said property has been delivered to the Attorney General, and by him examined, and is now being perfected in accordance with his opinion. The architects for the proposed building have been selected and building committee for this board have visited the site and caused to be prepared contour maps, and location of buildings on the site have been designated.

"In brief, all of the details preliminary to the construction of the buildings have been performed within the time and in the manner provided for in the bill creating said school."

"At 2-15 P.M. [Meeting] . . . Governor Hobby . . . stated to the Board that notwithstanding the large deficit that was sure to exist, and irrespective of the conditions existed on account of the war, drought, etc., that if the faith of the state had been pledged, he would not allow its violation. Representative Tillotson had drafted a bill postponing the expenditure of the funds heretofore appropraited at one time, but permitting the construction of the Normals, one ready for opening in 1918, another in 1920, and another in 1922, the order of the building of the schools to be determined by the Board of Regents. . . . a bill that would recognize the location of these three normal schools . . . . and would in so far as possible to do so, pledge the faith of the State to the carrying out of the program for the building of the three normal schools one for opening in 1918, another in 1920, and another for 1922, said bill to provide for contingent expenses incurred and to be incurred by the Board of Regents, Architects Fees, etc.

"It was agreed that the order in which these three schools should be completed be as follows: First, the South Texas State Normal at Kingsville; second, the Stephen F. Austin Normal College at Nacogdoches, and third the Sul Ross State Normal College at Alpine, Texas."

Daily Sentinel , September 25, 1917

"The Normal Delayed"

"Telegrams Received in City Say That Normal is Saved, But Building Will Be Delayed"

"Telegrams from Hon. Edgar Thomason, our representative in the legislature, received this morning, announce that Governor Hobby will today recommend to the legislature that the building of the new normal schools be postponed, but will not recommend repeal.

"Mr. Thomason also, advises that the legislature has killed the West Texas A&M, and the North-West Texas Insane Asylum - and "has gone wild, but I am doing my best," to quote his reference.

"Nacogdoches people will rejoice that our building - has been saved, when they consider the present temper of the legislature, for the members only wanted the opportunity to kill anything in sight.

"With the high cost of building material, and everything that enters into construction at the present time, we will get a much better building when conditions become normal again, and the only thing left for us to do is to bide our time with patience and go forward in the development of our town, which will help us in pushing up the appropriations for the coveted institution upon which we have set our heart."

Daily Sentinel , September 27, 1917

"Recommends One Normal Each Year"

"A dispatch from Austin announces that Governor Hobby in his message to the legislature in the matter of the new normal schools, recommends amendments to the laws creating the Sul Ross, Southwest [sic] Texas, and the Stephen F. Austin Normal colleges not later than September 1, 1919, one the following year, and one two years later."

Daily Sentinel, October 9, 1917

"Normal Building to be Postponed"

"Hon. Eugene H. Blount, who has been in Austin several days in the interest of the normal school the legislature elected to establish in Nacogdoches, writes back that Governor Hobby is going to sign the bill postponing the erection of the building.

"This will be very discouraging news to the people of this city who had taken fresh hope from a statement in which Governor Hobby was quoted with saying that he would veto the measure offered for postponement, which would have put the matter back where it was and allow the building to proceed.

"This last course on the part of both the legislature and the governor is a great injustice to Nacogdoches, and sets a precedent in which the great state of Texas has failed to live up to its contract with its own people. Nacogdoches has complied with every conditions, which necessitated the people and the city government to ctonract for the expenditure of some $80,000, much of which goes to waste by the state failing to do its part.

"The town will not give up in consequence, but to the contrary will go forward with all the development practical, and if the matter is ever opened again will insist upon its claim for the school."