Calhoun, John William (1871–1947)

By: W. J. Battle

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 5, 2019

John William Calhoun, comptroller and professor of the University of Texas, was born to George Washington and Maria Frances (Glasgow) Calhoun on October 24, 1871, in Manchester, Tennessee. He attended school at nearby Reddens Chappel for an average three months a year from age five to age nineteen; he then spent a year at a private school in Manchester and fifteen months at Winchester Normal School before teaching in country schools in Tennessee and Texas.

He entered the University of Texas in 1901, took a position as superintendent of schools at Arlington in 1902, returned to the university, and received his B.A. degree in 1905. He worked as a tutor in mathematics from 1905 to 1909 but took the year 1907–08 to earn an M.A. degree from Harvard. He became an instructor at the University of Texas in 1909 and worked his way to full professor by 1923. In 1919 he was transferred from the department of pure mathematics to that of applied mathematics. He also served as comptroller of the university from 1925 until 1937, when he became president ad interim, a post he held for two years. As comptroller he supervised oil production on university lands, investment of funds, and construction of buildings. One of his favorite projects was the planting of live-oak trees on the campus. In 1938 Calhoun received an honorary LL.D. degree from Abilene Christian College. When Homer S. Rainey was appointed president of the University of Texas in 1939, Calhoun went back to teaching full-time. He was president of the University Cooperative Society for twenty-five years. He was also president of the University Club, a fellow of the Texas Academy of Science, president of the Texas Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and a long-time secretary of the Town and Gown Club of Austin. His publications, primarily official reports and textbooks, included Unified Mathematics (1918), Algebra for Junior and Senior High Schools (1930), and The University of Texas: The Position Achieved, The Opportunities Ahead (1938). Calhoun left in manuscript an account of the trees on the university campus and an autobiography, The Short and Simple Annals of the Poor, which he described as being "an eye-witness account of the lives and manner of living of the POOR WHITES inhabiting the Hill Country of the south-eastern part of Middle Tennessee from 1870 to 1890 A.D."

Calhoun married Evelyn Scott of Fort Worth on August 22, 1910; they had one daughter. He died in Austin on July 7, 1947, and was buried in Memorial Park. Calhoun Hall on the University of Texas campus was named for him when it was completed in 1968.

John William Calhoun Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Carl John Eckhardt, One Hundred Faithful to the University of Texas at Austin (197-?). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in America, 1948–49.

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Math

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

W. J. Battle, “Calhoun, John William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 5, 2019