Dixie University


By: Bud Brooks

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 2021

Updated: September 1, 2021


Dixie University was a short-lived college in downtown Dallas, Texas, and was chartered in 1933 by the Somerville Law School partly to expand into a liberal arts college and partly to create a home for the displaced 1932 Jefferson University Rangers football team. The law school was re-branded in spring 1933 and held its first Dixie Law School graduation then. In fall 1933 Dixie University opened with 400 students in the law school and the brand new undergraduate colleges. However, by spring 1935 Dixie had failed, and the liberal arts college shut its doors without notice. Somerville Law School, founded in 1929, carried on under that name until 1947 before it too eventually closed.

Based in downtown Dallas at the old YMCA Building at 1910 Commerce Street, Dixie University opened the 1933 fall semester with its law school and its new schools of commerce, public administration, and accounting. But Charles L. Somerville, founder of Somerville Law School and subsequently Dixie, really wanted to compete in college athletics and was prepared to use any means to accomplish this goal. Consequently, to meet that fall 1933 opening, he literally brought an entire football team into the school.  Down the street was another law school and undergraduate college called Jefferson School of Law and Jefferson University. In 1932 Jefferson had hired football coach/promoter Nick Dobbs from Highland Park High School to elevate what had been a very poor Jefferson football team in 1930–31 into a top-flight Division I football team almost literally overnight. Dobbs brought in star players from other colleges and ramping up an aggressive schedule against some of the better NCAA teams in the region. Dubbed the Jefferson Rangers, they ran the table and went undefeated, including winning a big-money challenge game against Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) 12–6, played at Fair Park Stadium (see COTTON BOWL). Unfortunately, the players failed to attend classes, and the entire team was expelled from Jefferson before the end of 1932.

Subsequently, Charles Somerville immediately announced in February 1933 that he had established Dixie University to house the Rangers team and Coach Dobbs; the team was christened the Dixie Rebels. Dobbs set out to create an even more aggressive schedule, including traveling to places such as Montana and Idaho to find games, not to mention playing many of the quality schools in the Southwest. Many schools, however, started to back out, and teams such as the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University, which had backed their freshmen teams out of games versus the former Jefferson Rangers in 1932, did not oblige Dobbs at all in 1933 with his new team because of the perceived illicit recruiting and lax standards. Dixie won two of its first three games in 1933, then traveled to Texas Tech in what was billed as a benchmark game—which ended up as a 33–0 trouncing of the Rebels by the Matadors. Dixie never won another game that year or the next and disbanded in 1935.

Somerville did not limit his exploits to football when it came to importing ready-made teams. In 1934 he did the exact same thing with a women’s basketball team. The imported 1934 Dixie Rebels women’s basketball team had played the previous years as the nationally-known Dallas Golden Cyclones and counted Babe Didrikson as one of its former players. Didrikson had already won two Olympic gold medals and was no longer playing with the team, although she did attend some games in the 1934 national tournament. National champions in 1931, the team got off to a good start in the 1934 season but then was soundly defeated in the quarter-finals of the national tournament by the defending champions and never played another game.

Dixie Law School did graduate some lawyers, including the odd-couple valedictorian and salutatorian of the 1933 class—Sam P. Cochran and Anton T. Rutgers von Rozenburg, respectively. Cochran was a seventy-seven-year-old widower who was a longtime insurance executive in Dallas, one-time president general of the Texas Free Masons, and leader of the Dallas Masonic temple. In 1934 he married a classmate, Regina Urbish (age twenty), who had also graduated in 1933. Cochran died two years later. Von Rozenburg was purportedly a World War I German aviator ace who claimed to have served with the famous Manfred von Richthofen (the “Red Baron”) as his left flank leader and was himself known as the “Black Devil” of the Western Front. He claimed to have flown fifty-nine “air battles” during the war and said he had been shot down three times, gassed, wounded, and reported missing multiple times.

The college’s demise paralleled that of the football and basketball teams. By 1935 Dixie University was closed permanently without any mention in the local newspapers. Somerville Law School, originally founded in Wichita Falls, Texas, and at one point operating five other branches around the state, reverted to the Somerville name and pared down to just the Dallas location. Law degrees were handed out as "Dixie University Law School” for just two years.

Dallas Morning News, December 20, 1932; February 19, 1933; May 6, 1933; June 6, 1933; August 27, 1933; October 7, 1933; March 25, 1934; May 23, 29, 1934. Dixie University, Dallas, Texas 1933–1935(?), Lost Colleges (https://www.lostcolleges.com/dixie-university), accessed August 25, 2021.

Categories:
  • Education
  • Defunct Colleges and Universities
  • Laws, Legislation, and Law Schools
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Sports (Football)
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
Places:
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Bud Brooks, “Dixie University,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/dixie-university.

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September 1, 2021
September 1, 2021

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