Baylor University

By: Lillie M. Russell and Lois Smith Murray

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: October 11, 2021

Baylor University owes its founding to Robert E. B. Baylor, James Huckins, and William Milton Tryon, who in 1841 organized an education society in the Texas Union Baptist Association with the purpose of establishing a Baptist university in Texas. Baylor was chartered by the Republic of Texas on February 1, 1845, and was opened in 1846 at Independence. Professor Henry F. Gillette directed the school until the arrival of its first president, Henry Lee Graves, who received notice of his election on January 12, 1846, arrived in Independence in December 1846, and entered upon his duties on February 4, 1847. That year Graves organized a collegiate department and in 1849 added lectures in law. He resigned in 1851 and was succeeded by Rufus C. Burleson, who, during his first year as president announced a course of study leading to graduation. The university granted its first degree in 1854. In 1861, as a result of continued disagreement with the board of trustees, Burleson and the entire faculty of the male department resigned. George W. Baines, Sr., became president and in 1863 was succeeded by William Carey Crane, during whose presidency the curriculum was broadened and the female department became a separate institution, Baylor Female College (see UNIVERSITY OF MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR). From 1866 to 1886 Baylor University was a male school. After Crane's death in 1885, Reddin Andrews, Jr., an alumnus, was made president.

In 1886 the Baptist General Association of Texas and the State Convention, under the control of which Baylor had been operating since 1848, were combined to form the Baptist General Convention, and as a result Baylor University and Waco University, which Burleson had headed since he resigned as president of Baylor at Independence, were consolidated and rechartered as Baylor University in Waco. Under the control of the Baptist General Convention, Baylor was established on the Waco campus by the end of 1887. Burleson was made president emeritus in June 1897. Professor John C. Lattimore, as chairman of the faculty, directed the school until 1899, when Oscar Henry Cooper was made president. Cooper secured two new buildings and raised academic standards.

Samuel Palmer Brooks succeeded Cooper in 1902 and served as president until his death in 1931. Brooks added new departments and organized the schools of education, law, business, and music. In addition, Baylor acquired four professional schools in Dallas: the College of Medicine (1903), the School of Nursing (1909), the School of Pharmacy (established in 1903 and discontinued in 1930), and the College of Dentistry (1918). In 1919 the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium in Dallas became Baylor Memorial Hospital and was a part of the School of Medicine until 1943, when the school was transferred to Houston. Baylor Theological Seminary, established in 1905, became a separate institution, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in 1908 and was moved to Fort Worth in 1910. During the Brooks administration the enrollment grew, the campus was enlarged, four new buildings were erected, the summer term was made a regular part of the school year, the endowment was increased, and Baylor was admitted to membership in various college and university associations.

After Brooks's death, W. S. Allen, dean of the college, served as acting president until June 1932, when former governor Pat M. Neff, alumnus and president of the board of trustees, became president. Under Neff's direction the endowment was increased and salaries were raised; the campus was enlarged and landscaped; the departments of home economics, drama, and radio were added; library and laboratory facilities were improved and extended; four new buildings were built, and the Union Building was begun. In 1945, despite difficulties incident to World War II, Baylor celebrated her centennial anniversary. During the war the university instructed students for the army and navy. With the influx of veterans the enrollment reached 4,589 in the fall of 1947. Neff resigned on December 31, 1947, and was made president emeritus. W. T. Gooch, dean of the graduate school, was named president ad interim. William Richardson White was elected president in January 1948 and took office on February 1. Baylor University made unprecedented growth in both capital assets and academic standards during the thirteen-year administration of President White. Between 1948 and 1959 the university departments were affiliated with the highest accreditation agencies. Baylor's plant was increased in value some $10 million by the addition of eleven new buildings, including the Armstrong Browning Library, dormitories and apartments, a music hall, the School of Law, and a Bible building. Library holdings increased by 93,209 volumes between 1948 and 1965. The nucleus of the library collection was acquired in 1902, when the Erisophian, Philomathesian, Adelphian, Calleopean, and Burleson societies presented their libraries to the university. The F. L. Carroll Library, completed in 1903, was gutted by fire in 1922, but students were credited with saving most of the books. The rebuilt structure housed the main library. Special collections in music, theology, law, Texas studies, and Robert Browning supplemented the general library, which in 1969 consisted of 460,600 books and periodicals housed in fifteen units on the campus.

In June 1959 Judge Abner V. McCall, former dean of the School of Law, was made executive vice president with administrative responsibility, and White assumed public relations duties. In April 1962 McCall was named president of the university. That same year White became Baylor's first chancellor, and in 1963 he was president emeritus. McCall's administration—he resigned in 1981 and was made chancellor—was characterized by an emphasis on scholastic excellence with efforts to upgrade faculty, students, and facilities and to extend the graduate program. The university's College of Arts and Sciences provided special programs in American studies; B.S. degrees could be obtained in dental hygiene and preprofessional work in medical technology, physical therapy, dentistry, medicine, engineering, and forestry. A senior division of the United States Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps was located at Baylor. Doctoral programs were offered in English, chemistry, psychology, physics, and education. Graduate programs in many aspects of dentistry, medicine, and allied fields were sponsored in cooperation with the College of Medicine (Houston), the College of Dentistry (Dallas), and the Graduate Research Center (Dallas). The master of hospital administration degree was offered for military personnel in cooperation with the Medical Field Service School at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, and in 1971 a graduate program in physical therapy was added. In 1972 this facility changed its name to the Academy of Health Sciences of the United States Army.

By 1965 Baylor's enrollment at Waco, including 268 students in the School of Law, reached 6,432-considered the maximum figure consistent with available facilities. The administration and teaching staff totaled 364, of whom eighty-eight worked part-time. Approximately one-fourth of the faculty was involved in research, supported by various sources. Between 1845 and 1965 the institution graduated 36,121 students. In 1965, 74 percent of the students were Texans; the remainder represented every state in the Union and twenty-one foreign countries. Although Baptist in affiliation, Baylor had students from over thirty religious denominations.

Between 1960 and 1965 the Waco campus was extended by fifty-five acres; construction of a student health center, school of business, science building, and auxiliary buildings brought the investment in a total of thirty-two buildings to $24 million. A second science building was constructed, and a new library was ready for occupancy by 1968, when investments in Baylor's campuses at Waco, Dallas, and Houston totaled $53 million. The school also had $42 million in endowments and other investments and assets. In 1970 the enrollment was 6,532, and the faculty numbered 398. By 1974 the enrollment had increased to 8,130.

In 1994 Baylor was organized into the College of Arts and Sciences (founded in 1919), the Hankamer School of Business (organized in 1923 and renamed in 1959), the School of Education (organized in 1919), the Graduate School (organized in 1947), the School of Law (organized in 1857, closed in 1883, reopened in 1920), the School of Music (organized in 1919 as the College of Fine Arts and renamed in 1921), the School of Nursing (reorganized in 1950 to offer the B.S.N.), the University School (organized in 1987), and the Allied Graduate Program at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas and the United States Army Academy of Health Science in San Antonio. The University School operated the honors program, the university scholars program, and interdisciplinary-study programs in archeology, biblical and related languages, church-state studies, and environmental studies, as well as programs in American studies, Asian studies, Latin-American studies, Slavic studies, museum studies, and university studies.

Baylor holds accreditation and memberships in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Association of American Colleges, American Council on Education, Southern Universities Conference, Texas Council on Church Related Colleges, Southern Association of Baptist Colleges and Schools, American Association of University Women, and American Society of Allied Health Professions. In addition, the various colleges, schools, and departments at Baylor hold numerous affiliations. The university offers a variety of bachelor degrees, including several in aviation sciences and home economics. The graduate programs include master's degrees in clinical gerontology, environmental science, international journalism, speech pathology and audiology, taxation, international management, and public policy and administration, and a Ph. D. in such fields as education and psychology. The campus library facilities include the Armstrong Browning Library; the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, which houses the manuscript collections of several former members of Congress and the Texas legislature; the Moody Memorial Library, which houses general collections, public services, circulation, government documents, music, periodicals, and reserves; the Jesse H. Jones Library, which houses the public service departments of the reference services and the science and engineering collections; the Texas Collection Library and Archives; University Libraries Technical Services; Academic Publications; Institute for Oral History; Regional Studies; and the Strecker Museum. Herbert H. Reynolds served as president from 1981 to 1995, whereupon he became chancellor and then, beginning in 2000, president emeritus. Robert B. Sloan Jr. became Baylor's twelfth president in 1995. As of May 2000 the market value of the university's endowment was about $645 million. In 2001 a faculty of 662 served 13,719 students in ten colleges or schools, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, the Graduate School, the Hankamer School of Business, the Law School, the Louise Herrington School of Nursing, the School of Education, the School of Engineering and Computer Science, the School of Music, and the School of Social Work.

Eugene W. Baker, To Light the Ways of Time: An Illustrated History of Baylor University, 1845–1986 (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1987). Jefferson Davis Bragg, "Baylor University, 1851–1861," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 49 (July 1945). James Milton Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists (Dallas: Baptist Standard, 1923). Kent Keeth, Looking Back at Baylor: A Collection of Historical Vignettes (Waco: Baylor University, 1985). Zenos N. Morrell, Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1872; rpt. of 3d ed., Irving, Texas: Griffin Graphic Arts, 1966). The Story of Baylor University at Independence, 1845–1886 (Waco: Baylor University, 1986).

  • Education
  • Private Four-Year Colleges and Universities
  • Religion
  • Baptist
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

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

Lillie M. Russell and Lois Smith Murray, “Baylor University,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 11, 2021