Kate Ross Padgitt, philanthropist, the seventh child of Catherine (Fulkerson) and Shapley Prince Ross and the sister of Texas governor Lawrence S. (Sul) Ross, was born in Waco, Texas, on January 6, 1851. She graduated from Waco University in 1867, one of only eight women in her class. She then began a career as one of Waco's most celebrated hostesses and social figures. When the Waco Suspension Bridge opened to traffic on January 6, 1870, Waco's twentieth birthday, she was part of the dedication ceremony and may have been the first to cross it. In 1874 she christened the first steamship built at Waco, named the Kate Ross in her honor. On January 2, 1878, she married Tom Padgitt, a saddlemaker who had moved to Waco in 1872. They had six children. The couple established a prosperous saddle and harness business in Waco. Mrs. Padgitt organized Waco's first social club, the Possum Club; members, young adults from Waco's elite families, hunted on Waco Creek and the next evening enjoyed a feast. Other novel entertainments included cotton-picking parties at the Padgitt home.
The well-being of Waco's black population was of special interest to Kate Padgitt. She donated substantially to Paul Quinn College, which was founded in Austin by African Methodist Episcopal Church circuit riders and moved to Waco in 1877. Later she supported Central Texas College, a black Baptist institution established in Waco about 1902. One of its buildings was named Katy Ross Padgitt Hall. When part of the Ross homestead in South Waco was developed into public housing, the apartments were named the Kate Ross Homes. Kate Padgitt was a member of the First Baptist Church of Waco. She died at her Waco home on January 18, 1912, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Raymond L. Dillard, A History of the Ross Family and Its Most Distinguished Member, Lawrence Sullivan Ross (M.A. thesis, Baylor University, 1931). John Sleeper and J. C. Hutchins, comps., Waco and McLennan County (Waco: Golledge, 1876; rpt., Waco: Kelley, 1966). Waco Daily Times-Herald, January 19, 1912. Patricia Ward Wallace, A Spirit So Rare: A History of the Women of Waco (Austin: Nortex, 1984).
Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Padgitt, Kate Ross,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 02, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
April 24, 2019
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: