The American Enterprise Forum, a nonprofit organization promoting free enterprise and economic education, began as the Hill Country Project, a cooperative educational effort organized in 1948 for school superintendents in Travis, Burnet, Lampasas, and San Saba counties. Its organizers, who included J. E. Edgar, then Austin superintendent of schools and later Texas Commissioner of Education, thought that "progressive education" did not adequately stress traditional values. Teachers in the cooperating schools prepared and exchanged lesson plans emphasizing freedom, patriotism, the Judeo-Christian ethic, and the importance of the individual. The organization was incorporated as the Texas Bureau for Economic Understanding, a nonprofit educational corporation, on June 10, 1954. R. H. Lawrence served as executive director of the corporation until his death in September 1969. He was succeeded by Leon Blair. The bureau operated through regional American Heritage programs, supervised by local school officials, which encouraged the development of students' academic and leadership skills. In 1973 the legislature required public schools to teach economics with an emphasis on free enterprise. In February 1974 the bureau organized a symposium in Austin to define the parameters of the free-enterprise system and inaugurate an instructional program for teachers. At one time some twenty Texas universities used the bureau's instructional program. The bureau showed an increased interest in fostering historical awareness and heritage programs in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1983 the bureau had a budget of $388,150 and sponsored a variety of educational programs, including an economic awareness conference, regional history conferences for secondary school students, and teacher workshops. It also provided financial support for a number of publications, including the Texas Historian, the journal of the Junior Historians of Texas and Touchstone, the journal of the Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society. In 1987 Blair retired, Sheridan Grace Nichols took over as executive director, and the name of the organization was changed to the American Enterprise Forum. The group continued to promote the study of economics at the secondary-school level. Between 1987 and 1994 the forum provided more than $2 million in scholarships for teachers to return to school for further education in the social sciences. Among its board members at different times were Richard Armey, Texas congressman and speaker of the house, members of the Dealey family of Dallas, and Congressman Jim Collins. The American Enterprise Forum ceased operations in 1994.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every penny helps.
Please make your contribution today.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Leon B. Blair,
“American Enterprise Forum,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 20, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
June 1, 1995