Kinkaid School, the oldest independent nonparochial school in Houston and the largest in Texas, stands as a testament to the determination and foresight of its founder, Margaret Hunter Kinkaid. As the granddaughter of Johnson Calhoun Hunter, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred, and daughter of a Confederate veteran, Margaret Kinkaid was steeped in the Texas tradition of independence. When she discovered that married women were not welcome as teachers in the Houston public schools, she did not make a choice between marrying and continuing to teach; she simply began her own school. In 1904 she opened her home on the corner of Elgin and San Jacinto streets to seven pupils. Kinkaid School closed briefly for the birth of its founder's second son and reopened in 1906, the year Mrs. Kinkaid chose to mark the official beginning of the school. Four years later, classes were being held in almost every room of her house, and she decided that more space was needed. The cottage was elevated, and a new first floor was built to accommodate more children.
By the early 1920s Kinkaid School had a faculty of eight and had clearly outgrown the house. Mrs. Kinkaid agreed that a board of trustees should be formed and entrusted with the responsibility of moving the school. The board first met in 1924 and was made up of some of the most influential men in Houston: Robert Lee Blaffer, Harry C. Wiess, Edwin L. Neville, William L. Clayton, and Burke Baker, who, with other parents, made possible a new school building at 1301 Richmond Avenue. A high school was added in 1929, when William Kinkaid, son of the founder, came to serve as teacher and principal. The graduating class of 1938, comprising five girls, was the first to go from Kinkaid to college. Only ten years later the school enrolled 450 students in grades kindergarten through twelve, and the graduating class of six was all male. A separate high school building was completed in 1947. Two years later property at 4315 Yupon was purchased in order to make space for a new gymnasium. The gym, designed by Hermon Lloyd, was unique for Houston in that it had a basketball court on the second floor and classrooms and locker rooms beneath.
Both Mrs. Kinkaid and her son retired in the spring of 1951, and the following fall John H. Cooper, the choice of Mrs. Kinkaid and the board, came to Houston to serve as headmaster. His first year at the school was marked by the untimely death of Margaret Kinkaid, on December 20, 1951, as a result of an automobile accident. Under Cooper's leadership the school retained its traditional insistence on academic excellence, but the curriculum was updated and the performing and visual arts received new emphasis. The character of the student body was enriched by the addition of more scholarship students and students from varied backgrounds. The school was moved in 1957 to a wooded forty-acre site in the Memorial suburb of Houston, and by 1958–59 Kinkaid enrolled 884 students.
Kinkaid continued to expand and to offer innovative programs such as the midwinter interim term of enrichment study and the summer-long Math-Science Institute, a collaborative effort of Kinkaid and the Houston Independent School District to interest minority students in applied science and mathematics. The school's enrollment reached 1,178 in 1977; that year, as was usual by then, there were many more applicants than spaces for them. After twenty-eight years as headmaster of Kinkaid, Cooper retired on June 30, 1979.
Glenn Ballard, then headmaster at the Hockaday School in Dallas, consented to move to Houston as the third head of the school. Facilities were subsequently expanded and renovated, particularly in the areas of preschool, kindergarten, fine arts, and athletics. In 1992 a new middle school building, featuring the new Kayem Library with an automated library system, opened for 408 students in grades five through eight. At that time enrollment in grades prekindergarten through twelve was 1,250. The school's faculty numbered 130, and its facilities and endowment were valued in excess of $60 million.
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Susan Hillebrandt Santangelo, Kinkaid and Houston: 75 Years (Houston, 1981).
Private Elementary and Secondary Schools
Texas in the 1920s
Texas Post World War II
Upper Gulf Coast
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Susan H. Santangelo,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 10, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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