Fairchild, Marguerite Gibson Shearer (1885–1974)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: September 21, 2019

Marguerite Gibson Shearer Fairchild, University of Texas regent, was born in Livingston, Texas, on February 4, 1885, the daughter of Robert Bruce and Mary Thomas (Palmer) Shearer. The family moved in 1887 to Lufkin, where Marguerite's father, a brickmaker and contractor, served as mayor from 1905 to 1907 and assisted in establishing the local Episcopalian church. Five children, in addition to Marguerite and her brother, were born to the Shearer family in Lufkin. Marguerite attended Hollins College in Hollins, Virginia, before marrying Lufkin lawyer I. D. Fairchild on August 8, 1906.

The Fairchilds lived in Lufkin but spent much time in Austin, where I. D. Fairchild represented Angelina and surrounding counties as a state representative and then state senator from 1915 until 1928. During this time Marguerite served on the County Board of Child Welfare and the Angelina County Chamber of Commerce. She helped establish the first library in Lufkin and was president of the Historical and Literary Club from 1914 to 1916; she did domestic volunteer work for the American Red Cross in World War I. The Fairchilds were strong supporters of governors James Edward and Miriam A. Ferguson. They were also ardent supporters of the University of Texas, despite the controversy that James Ferguson had with this institution.

After the death of her husband in a car accident in 1928, Marguerite Fairchild withdrew from public life for several years. She returned to civic involvement in January 1935, when she was named to the nine-member University of Texas Board of Regents by outgoing governor Miriam Ferguson to fill an unexpired term. She was reappointed to a six-year term by Governor W. Lee (Pappy) O'Daniel in 1939 and served until February 1945. Although she began her term with some hesitancy, Fairchild quickly became an active and interested regent who regularly communicated with students, staff, and faculty. Her major accomplishments as a regent including serving on the building committee during a time of major expansion at the university; successfully promoting the College of Fine Arts; and casting the lone vote against firing university president Homer Price Rainey. In 1945, shortly before she left the board, she also cast the only vote against denying numerous petitions calling for Rainey's reinstatement. For her actions she was lauded by university faculty, alumni, and students.

Despite encouragement from these groups to accept appointment for a third term, she let it be known that she was not interested and was replaced on the board in February 1945. She was the second woman to serve on the board of regents (following Mary McClellan O'Hair), and at the time of her death six women had served as regents. She supported the efforts of the Black Citizens Chamber of Commerce to establish the first day-care center in Lufkin and was a generous contributor to the Lufkin Art League and other civic causes. She campaigned for Rainey's unsuccessful bid for governor in 1946.

In 1951 the university honored Marguerite Fairchild for her efforts in establishing the College of Fine Arts by dedicating its tenth annual Fine Arts Festival to her. She died on January 18, 1974, and was buried in the Garden of Memories Cemetery, Lufkin. She was survived by two sisters. In 1977 the I. D. and Marguerite Fairchild Foundation was established in Lufkin; the foundation contributes to Angelina County projects and the UT College of Fine Arts.

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Angelina County Historical Survey Committee, Land of the Little Angel: A History of Angelina County, Texas, ed. Bob Bowman (Lufkin, Texas: Lufkin Printing, 1976). Margaret Catherine Berry, The University of Texas: A Pictorial Account of Its First Century (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980). Files, Office of the Board of Regents, University of Texas System, Austin. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Education
  • School Trustees and Regents
  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders

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

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Fairchild, Marguerite Gibson Shearer,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/fairchild-marguerite-gibson-shearer.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
September 21, 2019

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