Gathright, Thomas S. (1829–1880)

By: Molly Kate McCaughey and Nancy Young

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 11, 2020

Thomas S. Gathright, first president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University), was born on January 5, 1829, in Monroe County, Georgia. He first taught at Mount Hebron, Alabama, in 1850. He operated a private school for boys called Summerville Institute in Gholson County, Mississippi, from 1854 until 1876. Gathright avoided service in the Confederate Army by claiming poor health, family responsibilities, and professional duties, which included providing a free education for the children of indigent soldiers. He was appointed superintendent of public instruction in Mississippi on April 3, 1876.

On October 4, 1876, having been recommended by Jefferson Davis, he became the first president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. In 1878 the board of directors increased Gathright's duties to include the steward's responsibilities and the presidency of an A&M sponsored college for Blacks (later Prairie View A&M); this first effort under Gathright failed. In 1879 the entire administration was dismissed. Subsequently, Gathright served as the president of Henderson Male and Female College until his death, on May 24, 1880. Gathright is buried in the city cemetery in Henderson.

Henry C. Dethloff, A Centennial History of Texas A&M University, 1876–1976 (2 vols., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1975). Elmer Grady Marshall, History of Brazos County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1937). George Sessions Perry, The Story of Texas A&M (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951).

  • Education
  • University Presidents and School Administrators

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

Molly Kate McCaughey and Nancy Young, “Gathright, Thomas S.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 02, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 11, 2020