Ousley, Clarence N. (1863–1948)

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 20, 2020

Clarence N. Ousley, journalist and writer, was born to William Henry and Henrietta R. (Scuggs) Ousley on December 29, 1863, in Lowndes County, Georgia. He earned an A.B. degree from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama in Auburn in 1881. Though he had originally intended to study law, he reportedly became disenchanted with the prospect of a slow climb to success in the legal field and instead moved to Texas in hope of quicker advancement. He settled in Waxahachie and accepted a teaching position at Marvin College. In 1885 he operated as a merchant, and from 1886 to 1887 he served as editor of Farm and Ranch, a Dallas publication. In 1888 he returned to Waxahachie as the first superintendent of the local public school system. On November 8, 1888, he married Mary Young, a Waxahachie school teacher. The couple raised two daughters. Ousley became editor of the Dallas Weekly News in 1889. He subsequently became managing editor of the Galveston News (1890) and owner and editor of the Galveston Tribune (1893). He was a member of the Galveston Deep Water Committee, which led the campaign for the commission form of city government in that city after the devastating Galveston hurricane of 1900.

Ousley became managing editor of the Houston Post in 1901. In 1903, with several associates, he purchased the Fort Worth Gazette and recast it as the Fort Worth Record. He was editor until he sold his interest in the paper in 1913. From 1913 to 1914 he served on the American commission appointed to study and report on the system of rural credits employed by various European states. The commission's findings and recommendations led to the establishment of the Federal Land Bank of the United States. Upon completion of the commission's work, Ousley accepted an appointment to direct the agricultural extension service of Texas A&M College, a position he held from 1914 to 1917. From 1917 to 1919 he served as United States assistant secretary of agriculture. In 1919 Ousley returned to Fort Worth and soon became associated with Globe Laboratories, which he served as chairman of the board from September 21, 1921, until his death. In the 1920s he was also a director of the Texas Safe Farming Association, which sought to put Texas agriculture on a sounder economic basis through diversification and other improvements. In 1929 Ousley was manager of the East Texas Chamber of Commerce. He also remained an active commentator on local, national, and international affairs, in columns contributed to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Ousley was long involved in Democratic party politics. In 1904 he served as a delegate-at-large to the Democratic national convention. He made a brief run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1914, offering himself as an opponent of prohibition, but withdrew from the race on March 26. He subsequently endorsed Thomas Henry Ball, who ran on the prohibition ticket against James Edward Ferguson, the eventual winner. In 1922 Ousley ran for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate and placed fifth out of seven. As a supporter of both agricultural science and public education, Ousley played a leading role in establishing two state-supported institutions of higher learning: Grubbs Vocational College (now the University of Texas at Arlington), which opened in 1917 as a branch of A&M, and the Girls' Industrial College (now Texas Woman's University), which opened in 1903. Ousley was a member of the latter school's board of regents from 1904 to 1910 and served as first chairman of the board. In 1910 Governor O. B. Colquitt appointed Ousley a regent at the University of Texas, a position he led until 1914, part of the time as chairman. Beginning in 1907 he was also chairman of the Conference for Education in Texas, which campaigned for several years to improve rural schools in the state.

Ousley pursued other writing interests in addition to journalism. With Ben C. Mason he published "Fra Paola": A Play in Four Acts in 1896. Ousley's Rings O' Smoke, a collection of poetry, came out in 1902. He also published History of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (1935) and several textbooks: The Student's History of Our Country, for Grammar Grades (1912), coauthored with Robert Green Hall and Harriet W. Smither and rereleased as A History of the United States, for Grammar Grades (1920); and Background of American Government (1924). Ousley also edited a volume about the Galveston storm entitled Galveston in 1900 (1900). Ousley was a Baptist and a Mason. He belonged to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, the Fort Worth Club, and the Lake Ellis Hunting and Fishing Club. He was a member of the American Academy of Political Science, the American Economic League, the Farm Economic Association, and the National Cottonseed Products Association. In 1902 he was elected president of the Texas Press Association. He was also a recipient of an honorary A.M. degree from Simmons College in Abilene. Ousley died at his home at the Fort Worth Club on August 5, 1948, and was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Dallas.

Sam Hanna Acheson, Herbert P. Gambrell, Mary Carter Toomey, and Alex M. Acheson, Jr., Texian Who's Who, Vol. 1 (Dallas: Texian, 1937). F. B. Baillio, History of the Texas Press Association (Dallas: Southwestern Printing, 1916). Florence Elberta Barns, Texas Writers of Today (Dallas: Tardy, 1935). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 6, 1948. Library of Southern Literature (16 vols., Atlanta: Martin and Hoyt, 1909–13). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Clarence R. Wharton, ed., Texas under Many Flags (5 vols., Chicago: American Historical Society, 1930). Who Was Who in America, Vol. 2.

  • Education
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Advocates
  • School Trustees and Regents
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Textbook and Educational Writers
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Publishers and Executives
  • Literature
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Poets
Time Periods:
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth
  • Dallas

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

Anonymous, “Ousley, Clarence N.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 02, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ousley-clarence-n.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 20, 2020

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