Fairchild, Thornton McNair (1875–1941)

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 2013

Updated: February 3, 2017

Thornton McNair Fairchild, black educator and businessman, was born in Houston, Texas, on December 14, 1875. He was the son of Robert Fairchild and Amanda (McNair) Fairchild. He received his early education in the Houston public schools and later attended Prairie View College (now Prairie View A&M University). He served for a time as principal of black high schools in Navasota and Hempstead and taught in the Houston public schools for a number of years. In 1899 he married a woman named Mary. Early in his business career Fairchild established a funeral home, which by the 1940s was recognized as one of the oldest and best-equipped black mortuaries in Texas. He also founded the Watchtower Life Insurance Company, which became one of the leading black insurance companies in Texas, and served as its president and major stockholder. Fairchild attended Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church in Houston and was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Houston Negro Chamber of Commerce. He died in Houston on December 22, 1941, and was buried in Oak Park Cemetery in that city. After his death his wife gave a major donation to Houston College for Negroes (now Texas Southern University), where the oldest building on campus was named in his honor.

Andrew Webster Jackson, A Sure Foundation and a Sketch of Negro Life in Texas (Houston, 1940).

  • Education
  • Educators
  • General Education
  • School Principals and Superintendents
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Business
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Diana J. Kleiner, “Fairchild, Thornton McNair,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/fairchild-thornton-mcnair.

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July 1, 2013
February 3, 2017

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