Estill, Harry Fishburne (1861–1942)

By: Mary S. Estill

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1995

Harry Fishburne Estill, teacher and college administrator, was born in Lexington, Virginia, on August 12, 1861, to Charles Patrick and Katherine (Fishburne) Estill. He was brought to Texas soon after the Civil War by his mother to join his father, who taught at Odd Fellows University in Bryan until 1881. Estill graduated in the first class at Sam Houston Normal Institute (later Sam Houston State Teachers University) in 1880. The next year his father moved to Huntsville to teach Latin at Sam Houston.

Estill taught in Grimes County until 1881 and was principal of the high school in Navasota for one year. He then succeeded his father in the Latin department at Sam Houston. He served as vice president of the college from 1898 to 1908, when he became president. He also taught at the State School of Methods in Austin in 1888 and conducted summer normal institutes in Orange, Jewett, Sulphur Springs, and Huntsville between 1890 and 1908.

Estill worked for the continuous improvement of Sam Houston State. He secured its change into a junior normal college in 1911 and into a state teachers' college in 1916 by expanding the curriculum and improving the physical plant. In 1898, in collaboration with Oscar Henry Cooper and Leonard Lemmon, he wrote a high school history text, History of Our Country: A Textbook for Schools. He published an elementary text, Beginners' History of Our Country, in 1901. Estill was a member of the Association of School Administrators, vice president of the college teachers' section of the National Education Association, president of the Texas State Teachers Association (1903), and a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association. In recognition of his authorship and cultural attainments Austin College conferred an honorary doctorate upon him in 1907. Estill became president emeritus in 1937 and continued his professorship in history until his death.

In 1892 he married Loulie Sharpe Sexton of Marshall; the couple had five children. Estill died in Huntsville on February 12, 1942. The Estill Library at Sam Houston State University is a tribute to his labors. He was a Democrat, a Presbyterian, a Mason, and a Rotarian.

D'Anne McAdams Crews, ed., Huntsville and Walker County, Texas: A Bicentennial History (Huntsville, Texas: Sam Houston State University, 1976). Leaders in Education, 1941. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Walker County Genealogical Society and Walker County Historical Commission, Walker County (Dallas, 1986). Who's Who in America, 1938–39.


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Classics and Philosophy
  • School Principals and Superintendents

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

Mary S. Estill, “Estill, Harry Fishburne,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 28, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995