George Washington Brackenridge, businessman and philanthropist, son of John Adams and Isabella (McCullough) Brackenridge, was born in Warwick County, Indiana, on January 14, 1832. He attended Hanover College, Indiana University, and Harvard University. He moved to Texas with his parents in 1853, settled at Texana, and was surveyor of Jackson County from about 1857 to 1860. Although his three brothers served in the Confederate Army, Brackenridge became a war profiteer in the Matamoros cotton trade and with his family and a friend formed the cotton firm of Brackenridge, Bates, and Company. Among his business contracts was trader Charles Stillman. Sometime during the Civil War, Brackenridge was forced to leave Texas after claiming Union sympathies. He was appointed United States Treasury agent on July 30, 1863, and worked for the Treasury Department in New Orleans after the capture of that city by Union forces. After the war he became a Republican and a prohibitionist. In 1866 he organized the San Antonio National Bank. From 1883 to 1906 he was president of the San Antonio Water Works Company. He was president of a trust company, director of the Express Publishing Company, and president of the San Antonio school board. He became a regent of the University of Texas in November 1886 and continued as such until January 1911. He was again a regent from August 1917 to January 1919. As chairman of the committee on university land from 1889 to 1911, he aided in collecting back rents on university properties and placing them on a paying basis.
Brackenridge's benefactions to educational institutions included four school buildings in San Antonio, Guadalupe College in Seguin, B Hall on the campus of the University of Texas, University Hall for women medical students at Galveston, money for the founding of the school of home economics at the University, a loan fund for women students in architecture, law, and medicine, and a gift of 500 acres on the Colorado River in Austin to the University of Texas. He also supported the employment of women as instructors in the university system. His proposal that the main campus of the university be moved to the land on the Colorado was defeated. At the time that Governor James E. Ferguson vetoed the university appropriation bill for 1917–19, Brackenridge agreed, if necessary, to underwrite the expenses of the university for the next biennium out of his own private funds. He donated Brackenridge Park to the city of San Antonio. The Brackenridge home, Head of the River, was purchased by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, and remains on the campus of the University of Incarnate Word. Brackenridge was a life member of the Texas State Historical Association. He was never married. He died in San Antonio on December 28, 1920, and was buried with Masonic rites in the family cemetery near Edna, Jackson County. The bulk of his fortune went to the George W. Brackenridge Foundation for education.