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Daniel, Vara Faye Martin (1917–1987)

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell Biography Entry

Vara Faye Martin Daniel, civic leader and philanthropist, was born on June 17, 1917, in Hillsboro, Texas, one of three children of Will M. and Daisy (Beavers) Martin. Her father served in the Texas Senate, and one of her brothers, Crawford C. Martin, became attorney general of Texas. Because both of her brothers were in college in the 1930s, Vara forfeited her dream of attending Baylor University and saved money by studying at Hill Junior College in Hillsboro and Texas State College for Women (now Texas Woman's University) in Denton. In 1938 she graduated with honors from TSCW with a major in public school music. She moved to Liberty in 1938 to direct the music program for the public schools. In 1939 she married William Daniel, a lawyer from Liberty who later served three terms as a member of the Texas House of Representatives and became the governor of Guam. Vara Daniel devoted herself to numerous civic activities in and beyond Liberty. With her husband she established and endowed scholarships at Baylor University, the University of Texas, and the Methodist Boys Ranch in Waco. She served on several committees at Baylor and UT and was also a savings and loan director in Dayton and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Daniels served together as personal envoys to forty countries for presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Closer to home, they held annual parties for handicapped children at their Plantation Ranch, near Liberty. In 1985 they donated fifteen buildings from this ranch to Baylor University.

Because of her various civic endeavors, Vara Daniel was known as the "First Lady of Liberty." In 1985 the University of Texas at Austin established a professorship in her name. She also was honored by Hill Junior College, Baylor University, M. D. Anderson Hospital (see UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM CANCER CENTER), and the Texas Library Association for her commitment to their causes. She was a Methodist. She died of cancer on February 7, 1987, in Liberty. Survivors included her husband, their four children, one brother, and several grandchildren. After her death, her family established the Vara Daniel Mammography Clinic at Baptist Hospital in Liberty and made low-cost mammogram testing available to any woman in Liberty County over age thirty-five.

Cattleman, March 1987. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists

Time Periods:

  • Great Depression
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II


  • Central Texas

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

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Daniel, Vara Faye Martin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 24, 2021,

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December 1, 1994
April 22, 2021

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