Armstrong, A. Joseph (1873–1954)

By: Margaret Royalty Edwards

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: April 19, 2018

A. Joseph Armstrong, Baylor University English professor and founder of the Armstrong Browning Library, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 29, 1873, the sixth son of Andrew Jackson and Lotta (Forman) Armstrong. He received his B.A. degree from Wabash College, Indiana, in 1902 and his M.A. in 1904. He taught briefly at East Texas Baptist Institute in Rusk, Texas, to earn money for graduate school but returned to Kentucky when the Rusk school was unable to pay him. From 1904 to 1907 he taught at Wesleyan University in Illinois, where he developed a keen interest in the poetry of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In 1908 Armstrong received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and accepted a one-year appointment in the English department at Baylor University. He returned again to Kentucky the next year and taught English at Georgetown College for three years. On January 24, 1911, he married Mary Maxwell of Waco, whom he had met while both were teaching in Rusk. In September 1912 Armstrong moved to Waco as head of the Baylor English department, a position he held for more than forty years. He soon began collecting items for a Browning library at Baylor and turned over his own Browning collection to the school in 1918. He spent the rest of his life developing the collection into what is widely considered the largest accumulation of Browning materials in the world. He raised funds for the project by bringing poets, scholars, musicians, and lecturers to Baylor, including Robert Frost, Vachel Lindsay, Amy Lowell, Carl Sandburg, and Rabindranath Tagore.

In 1943 Baylor president Pat M. Neff promised Armstrong a matching grant of $100,000 for a Browning library on the Baylor campus. The professor redoubled his fund-raising efforts, and the Armstrong-Browning Library opened in 1951 with Armstrong as director. Armstrong's other activities included his work as editor of the Baylor Browning Series and the Browning pilgrimages he and his wife led to Europe. The popular professor died on March 31, 1954, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Waco. He and his wife had one son.

Lois Smith Douglas, Through Heaven's Back Door (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1951). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Education
  • Educators
  • English and Journalism

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Margaret Royalty Edwards, “Armstrong, A. Joseph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 29, 2022,

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April 19, 2018